Below is a release by Save Our Springs Alliance, which filed suit against the Central Texas Regional Water Supply Corporation under the Texas Open Meetings Act.
More news is also developing in San Antonio regarding campaign donations received by Mayor Ivy Taylor, a champion of the Vista Ridge water project.
Expect more news as StopVistaRidge.com will soon be filing a petition to the Public Utility Commission challenging the rate hikes related to Vista Ridge.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Lauren Ice 512-477-2320 x 305
Vista Ridge Project Partner Sued for Violations of Texas Public Information Act
AUSTIN, Tex. – March 17, 2016 – Last Friday, the Save Our Springs Alliance filed suit in Travis County District Court against one of San Antonio Water System’s partners in the controversial “Vista Ridge” water pipeline project. The suits seeks to force the Central Texas Regional Water Supply Corporation to release public information related to the condemnation of private land for the pipeline and pump stations, correspondence between the Corporation and other project partners, and copies of minutes from the Corporation’s board of directors meetings. The Corporation argues it is exempt from the Act.
The suit is the latest road block for the ill-fated Vista Ridge project, which was approved by San Antonio City Council in November 2014. If built, the pipeline would deliver 50,000 acre-feet of water from Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer wells in Burleson County to the north side of San Antonio via a 142-mile pipeline. The project is a public-private partnership between San Antonio’s municipally-owned utility, San Antonio Water System or SAWS, and the “Project Company” Abengoa Vista Ridge.
Abengoa Vista Ridge created the Central Texas Regional Water Supply Corporation to “facilitate and serve the public purpose of the [Vista Ridge] Project,” namely for acquiring easements and rights-of-way by exercising its eminent domain authority across more than 470 parcels in seven counties along the pipeline route. The Corporation has also been used to explore low-interest public financing for the project, although no financing has been secured yet.
“The Vista Ridge project team wants to have its cake and eat it too,” says Lauren Ice, Staff Attorney with SOS. “A private company has created this water supply corporation to get the benefits of a public entity, namely eminent domain, yet when the public requests access to information as straight forward as meeting minutes, the Corporation tries to hide from the open records law.” The Corporation is wholly controlled by a four-member board of directors, a majority of whom are affiliated with Abengoa.
The Vista Ridge project and SAWS has been plagued by transparency blunders since before the contract was signed. The latest concerns are related to the financial well-being of the Project Company. On November 19, 2015, San Antonio City Council, at SAWS urging, approved a rate hike intended to further financing for Vista Ridge. Less than one week later, Abengoa S.A., the Spain-based parent-company, announced it was restructuring in an effort to avoid bankruptcy. Its subsidiary, the cash-poor project company, Abengoa Vista Ridge, reported in February that it was seeking a new partner to provide 80% of the initial $82 million in equity. These moves have raised lingering questions about how much SAWS knew when they represented to Council before the rate hike that Abengoa was on firm financial ground and improving.
SOS has submitted several public information requests for information from SAWS as well. “While SAWS has been assuring Council that the Vista Ridge dealings are honest and transparent, it has also withheld information we requested citing the private interests of the private entities involved. This latest attempt by the project team to withhold valuable public information was the last straw,” said Ice.
Although the Office of the Attorney General has sided with the water supply corporation, its rulings are based only on the facts as presented to them, in this case by the Corporation itself. The Travis County District Court has the ability to inspect the information and overrule the OAG.
For more information:
League of Independent Voters of Texas
PO Box 651 * Bastrop, TX 78602
512-213-4511 * 512-657-2089 cell