Ranchos sale finalized (January 18, 2016)

Liberty Utilities is now owner of Apple Valley’s water system

APPLE VALLEY — Liberty Utilities completed its acquisition of Apple Valley Ranchos Water Co. last week with the finalization of its purchase of Western Water Holdings from the Carlyle Group, according to Liberty Utilities President Greg Sorensen.

The finalized sale followed the California Public Utilities Commission conditional approval of the sale in late December, and it includes Ranchos’ now former owner Park Water Co. and Mountain Water Co. in Missoula, Montana. But Apple Valley Town Attorney John Brown told the Daily Press, after the CPUC’s conditional approval, that Mountain Water Co. cannot legally be absorbed by Algonquin — the Canadian corporation that owns Liberty — until the Montana Public Services Commission approves the sale in that state.


Sorensen told the Daily Press on Wednesday that differences in California and Montana state laws allowed for the purchase.

(This was) an upstream transaction, Sorensen said. We actually acquired the parent company (Western Water Holdings) of Park Water from Carlyle. We filed a document with the Montana Public Services Commission withdrawing our application of approval from the (MPSC). The regulated utility (Mountain Water) is still owned by the same company it was last week. We just happened to change parent companies.


Apple Valley filed its formal condemnation action to acquire Ranchos’ water system in the Superior Court of San Bernardino last week, but not before Ranchos petitioned that same court with a request for suspension of any action related to eminent domain based on what Ranchos called multiple violations in the town’s final Environmental Impact Report that the company believes resulted in failure to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act.

Amid the various disputes, Ranchos General Manager Tony Penna told the Daily Press on Wednesday his employees are genuinely excited to become a part of Liberty Utilities.

Liberty Utilities welcomed us as part of the Liberty Utilities family, Penna said. The staff that was at Apple Valley Ranchos prior to Liberty Utilities is here today.The goal has never changed nor did they suggest that it would.

Prior to the sale, Liberty Utilities operated in 10 states, but with the disputed addition of Mountain Water in Montana, that number increased to 11. The company serves more than 560,000 water, gas and electric customers, according to Sorensen.

During an address to the Town Council during its regular meeting Tuesday, Sorensen said Liberty looked forward to being the long-term owner and operator of Apple Valley Ranchos.

When asked by Mayor Barb Stanton whether the town could expect to see any personnel changes as a result of the sale, Sorensen said there would be no changes made within Ranchos.

One change that has occurred, however, was the stepping down of Park Water CEO Christopher Schilling just a few hours after the sale was finalized.

Sorensen told the Daily Press on Wednesday that Schilling’s departure was made of his own volition.

It was just a choice as to whether he wanted to continue or not, he said. I certainly respect his decision.

Source: Matthew Cabe, Daily Press