|Mountain Water Company: Next Steps|
On Monday, Oct. 21 2013, the Missoula City Council voted 10-2 to approve Mayor Engen's request to begin negotiating with the Carlyle Group to purchase Mountain Water Company. Missed the hearing? Follow the vote on Twitter using #mslacc and #missoulawater. The Carlyle Group has owned Missoula's drinking water utility for the past two years, after Montana's Public Service Commission voted 3-2 to approve the sale of Mountain Water Company to the Carlyle Group in 2011.
At the Coalition, we believe public ownership of our drinking water utility in Missoula would better support dependable management of our water supply far into the future.
We believe public ownership of Mountain Water is the best way to support Missoula's irreplaceable water resources and our need for clean, safe, affordable, and reliable water far into the future. Between the stipulations in an agreement between Clark Fork Coalition, the City of Missoula, and Carlyle, as well as PSC's regulatory authority to protect the public and Montana's strong water laws, there are safety mechanisms in place to ensure Carlyle is a responsible stepping stone on the path to public ownership. We believe this sale is the best option for achieving City ownership of our water utility.
For a full explanation of the CFC position, download the CFC Post-Hearing Brief 10/31/11.
The sale of Mountain Water Company to the Carlyle Group is a once-in-a-century opportunity for the people of Missoula to control their own precious water. Between the stipulations in the September 22nd agreement between CFC, the City of Missoula, and Carlyle; PSC's regulatory authority to protect the public; and Montana's strong water laws; there are safety mechanims in place to ensure Carlyle is a responsible stepping stone on the path to public ownership. The three-way agreement gives CFC assurances that the Rattlesnake is safe, Missoula’s water stays home, and the people of Missoula have a legitimate shot at becoming the next owner of the water.
PSC approved the sale 3-2 on December 13, 2011. When you're out in the community, we hope you'll help CFC relate these important facts on the sale:
1. The PSC cannot order Mountain Water to be sold to the City at this time.
2. The current owner was not willing to sell to the City.
3. Carlyle is willing to sell to the City.
4. The agreement signed by the CFC, the City, and Carlyle gives assurances that #3 will happen.
The PSC Hearing
VIEW archive video of the hearing from MCAT.
Want to read more about the Coalition's position, view our data requests to Carlyle Group and Mountain Water Co., or view the testimony we've submitted to the PSC? Download the documents below:
>> Mountain Water is a privately owned water utility that provides drinking water to 50,000 Missoula-area residents, and owns water rights to tap the aquifer and to use Rattlesnake Creek water.
>> The company plans to sell to the Carlyle Group, the world’s largest private investment firm.
>> In June, the Montana Public Service Commission (PSC) decided it will review this sale.
>> The Coalition asked for and received intervenor status in April to give Missoula citizens a voice in who owns and manages an aquifer and a watershed that are essential to our livelihoods. Other intervenors in the case are the Montana Consumer Counsel, the City of Missoula, and the Carlyle Group.
>> As an intervenor, the Coalition spent the past 4 months vetting the sale. We consulted with financial experts and attorneys to review Carlyle's intentions for the water utility:
> Our main concern is that Carlyle will be the first in a series of short-term investment buyers with short-term planning horizons, managing the community’s drinking water system and aquatic assets primarily to earn money for investors.
> This type of “revolving door” ownership scenario introduces uncertainty and risk, and hinders long-range planning and management, which are essential for ensuring Missoula has clean, safe, reliable, and affordable drinking water into the future.
> The Coalition believes that better results for consumers and Missoula’s irreplaceable water resources could be achieved under municipal ownership, with City government’s deep roots in the community, its long-range view, its track record of community service, and its accountability mechanisms that put the common good at the forefront.
>> Given the fact that Park Water (Mountain Water's parent company) will not sell the utility to the City of Missoula, the Coalition believes this sale will give the community the means of progressing toward municipal ownership of our water.
>> Over 200 local businesses have joined us to ask the PSC to set a course toward public ownership of our drinking water.
>> The Coalition, the City, and Carlyle signed a settlement agreement on September 22nd that: 1) ensures Missoula's water will stay in the watershed, 2) ensures Rattlesnake Creek water rights will only be used as emergency back-up supply, and 3) gives the City the chance to make an offer on Mountain Water at any time, and 120 days to make an offer when the utility (or any of its parts) is sold by Carlyle.
>> The PSC public hearing was held September 26-27 in Missoula, with testimony from Carlyle, the Montana Consumer Counsel, the City of Missoula, and the Clark Fork Coalition. Dozens of citizens also submitted public comment.
>> On December 13, 2011, the PSC voted 3-2 to approve the sale of Mountain Water to the Carlyle Group.
We believe public ownership of our drinking water utility in Missoula would better support dependable management of our water supply far into the future. Municipal governments around the state have shown great stewardship of water resources through their management of publicly owned water systems-- and the City of Missoula, an experienced utility operator, would demonstrate similar stewardship. We're working to help put the City of Missoula on the path to public ownership of its water resources.
Mountain Water Company FAQ
Q: How do Missoula’s water rates compare? Missoulians pay on average some of the highest water rates in the state. Metered water users pay an average of $46 per month. That contrasts with Billings, where the average water user pays $22.42 per month, and Helena, where bills typically run $31. These cities have municipally-owned water utilities. Missoula is the only major Montana city that does not own its own water system.
Q: How many people does the sale affect? Mountain Water Co. provides water to about 55,000 Missoula residents and businesses.
Q: Who is The Carlyle Group? The Carlyle Group is the world’s largest private investment firm, with nearly $150 billion in assets and offices in 19 countries. Established in 1987, Carlyle holds a diverse portfolio in a wide range of sectors, including aerospace, defense, energy, transportation, healthcare, and technology. It does not hold any water utilities. The Mountain Water purchase (along with Sam Wheeler’s two California utilities) would be its first foray into the water industry.
Q: How long would a group like Carlyle be invested in Missoula’s water? It’s hard to know. But what we do know is that Carlyle’s goal is to create value and generate superior returns with their investments. Their asset managers typically hold companies for about three to seven years before selling them.
In The News: The Mountain Water Sale