HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Legislation criticized by opponents as a vehicle for-profit water companies to take over municipal water authorities in Pennsylvania by imposing expensive regulations on them passed the Republican-controlled state Senate on Tuesday.

Opponents also warned that the bill will precipitate ratepayer increases when water authorities must meet the new regulations or after they are forced to sell out to for-profit water companies.

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The bill passed, 27-23, with the backing of Senate Republican leadership. Opposition crossed party lines. The sponsor, Sen. Pat Stefano, R-Fayette, said the bill will create “uniform safety, security and quality standards for all water and wastewater suppliers.”

The bill goes to the House.

Under it, water systems must submit asset management plans to state regulators for approval within a year-and-a-half. The plans are designed to determine when equipment must be upgraded and must include a cybersecurity program that is developed by an accredited professional.

During floor debate, one opponent, Sen. John Kean, D-Delaware, said major water companies, Aqua America and Pennsylvania American Water, backed the bill.

The Pennsylvania Municipal Authorities Association wrote to senators in April, saying its’ members worry about a “significant increase in rates to the consumer.”

Because of the financial burden, “this could force low-income communities to sell their rights to clean and reasonably priced water to private industry,” the association wrote.

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