The Legislature finds that it is in the public interest that water service be of good quality and consistent with the standards set forth in this chapter. Therefore, a utility’s certificate of authorization to provide water service may be revoked if, after its customers file a petition with the commission, the commission finds that revocation is in the best interest of the customers in accordance with this section. As used in this section, the term “customer” means an individual whose property is serviced by a single meter or a person whose name appears on the bill for a master meter.
(1)(a) If the commission receives a letter from the customers of a utility stating their intent to file a petition pursuant to this section, the commission staff, within 10 days after receipt of the letter, shall notify the utility of the customers’ intent to file a petition.
(b) Commission staff shall send to the customers instructions regarding the information required on the petition and the subsequent process the commission will follow. The petition must be filed within 90 days after the receipt of the instructions. Commission staff shall review the petition and notify the customers within 10 days after receipt of the petition that the petition is sufficient for the commission to act or that additional information is necessary. The customers must file a cured petition within 30 days after receipt of the notice to cure and provide a copy of the petition to the utility. If the customers fail to file or refile a petition within the allotted time, the commission shall dismiss the petition with prejudice, and the customers may not file another petition for 1 year after the dismissal.
(2) A petition must:
(a) State with specificity each issue that customers have with the quality of water service, each time the issue was reported to the utility, and how long each issue has existed; and
(b) Be signed by at least 65 percent of the customers of the service area covered under the certificate of authorization. A person whose name appears on the bill for a master meter may sign a petition if at least 65 percent of the customers, tenants, or unit owners served by the master meter support the petition, in which case documentation of such support must be included with the petition.
(3) If the petition is in compliance with this section and the issues identified within the petition support a reasonable likelihood that the utility is failing to provide quality of water service, the utility shall thereafter be prohibited from filing a rate case until the commission has issued a final order addressing the issues identified in the petition. The utility shall use the following criteria in preparing a response to the commission, addressing the issues identified within the petition and defending the quality of its water service: (a) Federal and state primary water quality standards or secondary water quality standards pursuant to s. 367.0812; and
(b) The relationship between the utility and its customers, including each complaint received regarding the quality of water service, the length of time each customer has been complaining about the service, the resolution of each complaint, and the time it has taken to address such complaints.
(4) The commission shall evaluate the issues identified in the petition, the utility’s response as to whether it is providing quality of water service, and any other factor the commission deems relevant.
(5) Based upon its evaluation, the commission shall: (a) Dismiss the petition, in which case the decision must be supported by clear and convincing evidence and is subject to ss. 120.569 and 120.57;
(b) Require the utility to take the necessary steps to correct the quality of water service issues identified in the petition. The commission shall set benchmarks within a timeframe, not to exceed 3 years, and may require the utility to provide interim reports describing its progress in meeting such benchmarks. The commission may extend the term 3 years for circumstances that delay the project which are not in the control of the utility, such as natural disasters and obtaining permits necessary for meeting such benchmarks; or
(c) Notwithstanding s. 367.045, revoke the utility’s certificate of authorization, in which case a receiver must be appointed pursuant to s. 367.165 until a sale of the utility system has been approved pursuant to s. 367.071.
(6) The commission shall adopt by rule the format of and requirements for a petition and may adopt other rules to administer this section.