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TheStreet Open House

Aqua America Reports Record Earnings For Second Quarter

Stocks in this article: WTR

In May, Aqua America announced a plan to transition portions of its vehicle fleet to compressed natural gas (CNG). With an anticipated cost of less than $2 per gas gallon equivalent, it will be nearly half the cost of petroleum-based fuels. Further, the maintenance costs of CNG fueled engines are lower. “I believe that the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania will become the biggest economic driver in the state since the days of coal and steel. Pennsylvania has always been an energy-rich state with natural gas being its latest opportunity,” said DeBenedictis. “CNG makes sense economically because it is less expensive than petroleum-based fuels and environmentally because it is a clean-burning fuel, thereby reducing carbon emissions.”

Recently, Aqua Pennsylvania dedicated its second solar farm at its Pickering water treatment plant near Valley Forge. This is Aqua America’s largest solar farm and the eighth-largest solar installation in Pennsylvania. Over the past two years, Aqua America's Pennsylvania and New Jersey subsidiaries have constructed four solar farms to power their treatment facilities in an effort to reduce emissions, which shrinks the company’s carbon footprint and helps lower the need for the construction of new power generation facilities. A similar facility was built in 2010 and powers the Ingram's Mill Water Treatment Plant near West Chester, Pennsylvania. In 2011, Aqua America's New Jersey subsidiary constructed solar farms in Lopatcong Township, Warren County to power a water treatment plant, and in Gloucester Township, Camden County to power a well station. Collectively, the solar farms are expected to reduce Aqua's grid-tied usage, resulting in a direct economic benefit to Aqua's ratepayers of approximately $500,000 in avoided energy costs in 2012.

As of June 30, 2012, Aqua America’s weighted average cost of fixed-rate long-term debt was 5.21% percent, and the company had $124 million available on its credit lines. In April, Standard & Poor’s reiterated its A+ credit rating for Aqua Pennsylvania, Inc., Aqua America’s largest subsidiary. Of the 227 electric, gas and water utilities rated by Standard & Poor’s, only one has a higher rating than Aqua Pennsylvania.

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