Question Submitted by Daniels, 033018 OKAG, 2018 OK AG 2

Docket Nº:2018 OK AG 2
Party Name:Question Submitted by: The Honorable Julie Daniels, Oklahoma State Senator, District 29
Attorney:MIKE HUNTER ATTORNEY GENERAL OF OKLAHOMA CHARLES S. ROGERS SENIOR ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
Case Date:March 30, 2018
Court:Oklahoma Attorney General Opinions
 
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2018 OK AG 2

Question Submitted by: The Honorable Julie Daniels, Oklahoma State Senator, District 29

No. 2018 OK AG 2

Oklahoma Attorney General Opinions

March 30, 2018

Oklahoma Attorney General Opinions

MIKE HUNTER ATTORNEY GENERAL OF OKLAHOMA

CHARLES S. ROGERS SENIOR ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL

¶0 This office has received your request for an official Attorney General Opinion in which you ask, in effect, the following questions:

1. If a public entity that provides sewer or wastewater service ("sewer provider") wishes to request that a public entity providing water service ("water provider") terminate service to a common customer pursuant to 11 O.S.Supp.2017, § 22-112 5., what procedure must the sewer provider follow to request the termination of water service?

2. Upon receiving a request to terminate service from a sewer provider pursuant to 11 O.S.Supp.2017, § 22-1125., must the water provider give the customer notice and an opportunity to be heard before water service is terminated?

3. Would a water provider that terminates service pursuant to 11 O.S.Supp.2017, § 22-1125. incur any liability by terminating water service to a customer that is in good standing with the water provider?

I.

BACKGROUND

¶1 In Oklahoma, many municipalities provide water and sewer/wastewater services as a unified service to their residents, who receive a single bill for these services. See, e.g., Sharp v. Hall, 1947 OK 193, 181 P.2d 972. Other--typically small--municipalities may supply only sewer/ wastewater service to their citizens, who connect to a neighboring--typically larger--municipality's water supply. In this scenario, each municipality invoices the customer separately for service provided.

¶2 A municipality acting as both sewer provider and water provider has a simple solution when a resident fails to pay for these services when billed: termination of services until the delinquent account is brought into good standing. See, e.g., 12 E. MCQUILLIN, LAW OF MUNICIPAL CORPORATIONS § 35.48 (3d ed. 2010) ("Termination of service is a reasonable remedy for nonpayment when invoked against a customer who contracted, either expressly or impliedly, to pay for the services."). In non-unified systems, however, this remedy is available to the water provider, but may not be an option for the sewer provider. Indeed, terminating access to sewer/wastewater disposal to a customer that is receiving water service creates the potential for a public health hazard. Cf. Sharp, 1947 OK 193, ¶ 16, 181 P.2d at 680 (noting that a resident "purchasing the water service must, of necessity, use the sewer system to dispose of the water so purchased").

¶3 In 2016, the Oklahoma Legislature enacted Senate Bill 1029 to offer public sewer providers a potential mode of recourse against customers who obtain water service from a different public entity. 1 See 2016 Okla. Sess. Laws c. 98. The legislation, now codified as Section 22-112.5 of Title 11, provides as follows: A. Where water service is provided to real property by one public entity but that property receives sewer or waste water service from another public entity, and where the sewer or waste water account for the property has been found to be delinquent as determined by the policies adopted by the public entity regarding nonpayment, the governing body of the public entity providing sewer or waste water service to that property may request that the public entity providing water service terminate water service. Until the delinquency has been resolved, the governing body of the public entity providing sewer or waste water service requesting the termination of water service shall provide a proposed date for termination and notice to the public entity providing water service, and to the account holder and property owner of the subject property at least thirty (30) days prior to the proposed date for termination. The public entity providing water service may terminate water service at the subject property on the proposed date for termination or within thirty (30) days thereafter. Should the sewer or waste water delinquency be resolved during the pendency of the termination of water service, or sometime thereafter, the public entity which requested termination of water service shall provide the public entity providing water service notice of the resolution of delinquency no later than the first business day following resolution. The public entity providing water service shall renew water service no later than the first business day following the notice. Should the sewer or waste water delinquency be resolved during the pendency of the termination of water service, or sometime thereafter, the public entity which requested termination of water service shall provide the account holder and the property owner notice of the resolution of the delinquency, upon request.

B. Each public entity desiring to utilize the...

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