On March 8th, the New York State Assembly unanimously passed Assemblyman William Colton's bill (A.1079) to restore a six year compliance filing period for NYC consumers to challenge overcharged water and sewer bills. A version of the bill, introduced by Staten Island Senator John Marchi, is pending in the Senate.
In 1999, the Water Board cut the grievance period to two years despite overwhelming public opposition, following the dictates of the Giuliani administration. Angry water customers took the fight to Albany. On October 28 2001, Governor Pataki signed a re-instatement bill extending the period to 6 years. Sixteen days later, due to intense lobbying by the Giuliani Administration, Governor Pataki recapitulated and offered a compromise bill to cut the grievance period from 6 to 4 years.
A citizen consumer group, The Coalition for Water Bill Justice, has been fighting since 1991 to get water consumers the same rights to challenge overcharges on their water bills, as they do with their gas, electric, steam and telephone bills.
Michael Lockhart, Chairman of the Coalition for Water Bill Justice, praised Assemblyman Colton and the Assembly for passing the bill. "I commend Assemblyman Colton for taking the initiative to carry this pro-consumer legislation and making it a priority. He is a genuine leader that is truly doing the job his constituents sent him to Albany to do."
Assemblyman Colton stated, "It was unconscionable to shortchange the consumer time to contest any overcharges. Enough errors were made in the first place, then to pressure them with a shortened time frame as to discourage consumers for fighting for what was rightly theirs is very close to cheating them. Hopefully the Senate and Governor will pass the bill, too. There is a strong sense of injustice here that has to be resolved."