James Hunter

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Waterfix, what & why is it, who benefits and how much will it cost us?

Is Waterfix the right thing to do for Santa Clara Valley? Obviously The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) serving 19 million people in Los Angeles County and adjacent counties is very in favor of Waterfix. Over 30% of the water used is from the Sacramento Delta, another major source, roughly 15%,  is the Colorado River via the aqueduct. Without the continued access to both imports, Southern California has major problems supplying the current and growing population and industries.

An underlying issue is the water source for the State Water Project which is the source for the California Aqueduct is an area on the south side of the Delta, Clifton Court Forebay. It is 3 to 6 feet above sea level. If sea level increases by 3 feet there is a significant potential for salt water intrusion, into the Delta, especially in a drought when the water flow into the Delta is decreased. The result is that the water available from the Delta may not be a reliable source in the future.

The tunnels bypass the Delta and start at about 150 feet above sea level, three feeder tunnels/intakes on the Sacramento river south of the city . The twin tunnels run 30 miles, 150 feet below the Delta and each is 40 feet in diameter. Then the tunnels are pumped into the
Clifton Court Forebay which connects to several canals/aqueducts including the California Aqueduct. This is supposed to preserve the utility of the existing SWP (State Water Project) infrastructure and extend it's life by over 100 years or more.

The diversion of the water from the Delta have raised concerns of environmentalists that it may actually damage the Delta and contribute to the damage to several endangered species, of fish.

To put the size of the project in perspective the tunnels will be roughly the same length, as the English Channel tunnels. The "estimated" costs are $16 billion and $8 billion for restoration of the Delta. Keep in mind that the Chunnels missed their forecast budget and actually cost twice as much ($50+ billion).

In "theory" the taxpayers are not paying for the Waterfix, but in reality  we're looking at spending our money, as increases in water bills and/or property tax (Parcel Tax) will actually pay for the project. In our case Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD aka The Golden Spigot), which voted conditionally on 10/17/2017, to support a single tunnel version. Which is likely the worst decision as cutting number of tunnels in half (a) won't cut the cost in half, likely less than 30% less cost., (b) no redundancy in the event of an earth quake, (c) a failure in the tunnel will require it be shut down completely for repairs.

Financial support is becoming soft from various water districts, except those that are the direct beneficiaries of the guaranteed water supply or those that feel they can get access without the financial burden. 

It's time for Governor Brown to take a hard look at the twin-tunnel portion of WaterFix, before it becomes California's equivalent of the Pyramids, by the Nile.

Friday, November 3, 2017

SJWC Stock Price increases, Customer Service really drops, into the abyss!

This blogger has some strong opinions on Customer Service, as I started at Honeywell Computers, in the late 1960's, as a Field Engineer. Looking at a somewhat customer driven source, Yelp, and the detailed ratings, Yelp has on their website. It's obvious that customers opinion of San Jose Water Company has plummeted slightly above 2+ stars in 2013 to an abysmal rating of 1+ stars. Please keep in mind that unhappy customers can't submit a review with no stars, so effectively SJWC has "successfully" almost gotten a zero star rating and customers comments indicate  they feel they should be able to enter a zero star review.

SJWC has lower ratings than Comcast, in San Jose, I never thought customer service could be worse than Comcast.

It seems to come to a simple question if your city has two restaurants and "A" gets a Yelp rating of 4 stars and "B" gets  a Yelp rating of 1 star where do you go to eat dinner? Eventually "B" goes out of business, but that's not the end of the story since "A" is the only restaurant in town they begin to increase prices, until their revenue starts to decrease and they petition the city council to guarantee their revenues, so they can continue to serve expensive meals. The city decides to make them financially whole providing a reverse tax on each meal they serve. No, the story goes on, as the tax payers realize they are paying much more for the meal they eat at restaurant "A", as a group in the city is subsidizing by paying taxes which have increased much faster than would be reasonable and faster than other cities. In the final analysis capitalism and the inherent opportunity for competition would seem to restrain company greed and avarice.

I can only surmise that franchised monopolies, like San Jose Water Company (water) has no competition and Comcast (TV, Internet, services) has emerging competition, will have extremely poor to abysmal customer service when customers have few or no alternatives, to their product or services.  I did note that there was a small uptick in the Comcast Yelp rating, streaming and cable cutters may have them worried?

Keep in mind customer service is not generally consider a profit center and rather, is a cost of doing business. In the corporate drive for profits and stock valuation, customer service will be tolerated at best. The customer service representatives are the face of a company that a vast majority ever see.

Have you ever thought that tying part of the customer service management bonuses, to customer satisfaction, based on third party unbiased data! One can't but dream a little! 

Visit:  https://www.yelp.com/biz/san-jose-water-company-san-jose to view source of data.
SJWC, Yelp Customer Rating 2013 to 2017

Posted for Rita Benton, WRATES, Water Rate Advocates for Transparency, Equity and Sustainability
WRATES is making a difference!

CPUC PUBLIC HEARING - Plan to attend.
If you haven’t attended a meeting regarding SJWC yet, this is the one to attend!!! The customers of SJWC will actually see a reduction in our water rates come January if the CPUC decides to lower SJWC’s Investment Returns. We need to fill the room at SJ City Hall and let the CPUC know that we have had enough of SJWC’s outrageous rate increases. We have gained traction and the CPUC is listening. Let's not miss this opportunity. Find someone to carpool with. Make an evening of it. Plan to attend.

When: Monday, November 6, 2017 at 7:30 pm
Where: San Jose City Hall, Council Chambers, 200 E. Santa Clara Street, San Jose
What: CPUC Public Hearing will address issues related to SJWC
Attire: Wear a BLUE shirt in solidarity

Validated parking can be found at: 
City Hall underground parking garage. Entrance is on 6th street.
4th street garage at 4th and San Fernando (near Flames)

The public will have 1 to 2 minutes to speak, depending on the size of the crowd. WRATES members are writing one minute talking points to present to the CPUC at the hearing. We will be looking for individuals at the hearing to read the talking points. You can also write your own talking point if you wish.  Plan to attend even if you don’t wish to speak. Attendance is important for the CPUC to recognize the magnitude of the rate issues/increases facing ratepayers. 

Please post on your Nextdoor, Yelp, Facebook etc. and get the word out. Attendance is vital.
Join WRATES and sign the petition, WRATES  and petition.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

SJWC, SJW Land and SJW Corporation Land Sales, Who Benefits?

The major expansion by Adobe and very recently Google, both involve the purchase of downtown San Jose property originally owned by SJWC. We're slowly finding out that the property was transferred, from SJWC a regulated utility at very low prices, to SJWC Land an unregulated company. The sale of properties by SJWC Land provided no benefit for the customers of SJWC.

The Mercury had an article that the
The bill backed by Jim Beall (California State Senator)  allows the water company to retain possession of its water rights, a treatment plant and Lake Elsman. It was endorsed by the Bay Area Council, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, the Nature Conservancy, the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, the town of Los Gatos, and the cities of Saratoga, San Jose and Campbell.

The bill also requires that proceeds from any sale be invested by the water company in capital projects like upgrading pipelines to reduce costs on ratepayers. It also requires that any money from the sale that the water company has not spent within eight years must be allocated to ratepayers.
My concern is that there isn't specifically defined unbiased over-sight that has a seat at the negotiations, to represent the customer/ratepayers of San Jose Water Company. if this transaction is closed by the Mid-peninsula Regional Open Space District. It might be worth noting that the bill explicitly excludes CPUC from participating, Hmm!

Since this transaction would likely be over $30 million or more it would be difficult to track and insure the proceeds are used to defray infrastructure costs that would effectively cause your water rates to increase.

What can you do:

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

SOL doesn't bring sunshine to you or how did SOL get into CPUC?

SOL is the acronym for Statue of Limitations, this is a short look at SOL and it's misuse, in this blogger's opinion by the utility companies, in California.

Utilities in California primary goal is to charge every penny possible to consumers they "serve!". If they can't charge you in your monthly bill the next best strategy is for them to burden the consumer with as much of the "risk" of doing business as possible. Examples, are the WRAM (Water Revenue Adjustment Mechanism/Modified Cost Balancing Account) and now the SRM (Sales Reconciliation Mechanism). These are some of the ways, the utilities use, to shift risk in doing business to their customers, they also protect the utilities from their own overstated forecasts and protect the utilities profits/revenues, at the customers expense, for the benefit of the shareholders and utilities management.

Buried in the CPUC General Code is a misuse, in this bloggers opinion, of the Statue of Limitations, it's like getting the card in Monopoly that's gets you out of jail, except the utilities have what appears to be perpetually renewing get out of jail card. This means if quasi-monopolistic (no competition) utilities in California seem to believe they have and or are trying to convince CPUC that there should a limit on what their customers can claim, based on actions or errors made by the utility.

This blogger must state for the record he is not an attorney. Having made that clear let's take a look at some of the basis and precedents, that are used or being tried by our utilities, which may be in fact misused.

SOL (California Statue of Limitations):
Statute of Limitations: A fraud (deceit, intentional misrepresentation) lawsuit is required to be filed within three years before plaintiff either discovered facts constituting the fraud or with reasonable diligence could have (should have) discovered those facts, whichever comes first. Sun'n Sand, Inc. v. United California Bank (1978) 21 Cal.3d 671, 701; Fox v. Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Inc. (2005) 35 Cal.4th 797, 808; Kline v. Turner (2001) 87 Cal.App.4th 1369, 1374.
The delayed-discovery rule in fraud cases applies and is codified in California Code of Civil Procedure § 338(d):

“Within three years: (d) An action for relief on the ground of fraud or mistake…[is] not deemed to have accrued until the discovery, by the aggrieved party, of the facts constituting the fraud or mistake.”
“This discovery element [triggering the 3-year statute of limitations time clock] has been interpreted to mean ‘the discovery by the aggrieved party of the fraud or facts that would lead a reasonably prudent person to suspect fraud.’ ” Doe v. Roman Catholic Bishop of Sacramento (2010) 189 Cal.App.4th 1423, 1430.
The California Legal Code is very complex, possibly the reason for California having more lawyers than the Country of Japan. (A small joke) The Code exempts certain crimes, but in fact California seems unique in the US in the very wide application and complexity of SOL.

CPUC SOL (Statue of Limitations):
 The following are excerpts from

California Code, Public Utilities Code

Public Utilities Code - PUC § 210

Any public utility which does, causes to be done, or permits any act, matter, or thing prohibited or declared unlawful, or which omits to do any act, matter, or thing required to be done, either by the Constitution, any law of this State, or any order or decision of the commission, shall be liable to the persons or corporations affected thereby for all loss, damages, or injury caused thereby or resulting therefrom.  If the court finds that the act or omission was wilful, it may, in addition to the actual damages, award exemplary damages.  An action to recover for such loss, damage, or injury may be brought in any court of competent jurisdiction by any corporation or person.

No recovery as provided in this section shall in any manner affect a recovery by the State of the penalties provided in this part or the exercise by the commission of its power to punish for contempt.

I t looks like the a Utility either has committed fraud or intentional deceit or has exhibited incompetence, in doing business. It's not clear to me that an attorney could make a strong case for limiting the period of the overcharges, if the period is more than three years. It looks to me like the plaintiff in an action has a three year limitation to take action, separate from the period for actual where monetary harm may be applicable.

There is also the principal of the "two edge sword":
For the past decade, California’s investor-owned utilities have frequently relied upon the ‘‘duty or obligation to serve’’ as the means for obtaining valuable concessions from the California legislature and Public Utilities Commission. The utilities have exploited this regulatory principle as one of their primary weapons to justify billions of dollars of rate recovery and concessions. It is clear, however, that the duty to serve is not a saber which is only available to the utilities. Rather, the duty to serve is a double-edged sword that might equally be brandished by ratepayers. Peter W. Hanschen and Gordon P. Erspamer
We then have instances of land transfers from the San Jose Water Company, a regulated wholly owned subsidiary, of SJW Corporation. The SJW is a publicly traded company, to the SJW Land Company. In one of the instances of a transfer of property from SJWC was made to SJW Land Company, with a value of about $42,000 and to this bloggers surprise, SJW Land Company sold the property 5-6 months later for more than $4.2 million dollars. Which this blogger feels that the transfer price cost the customers of SJWC over $4 million dollars that should have been applied to infrastructure or other costs that then had to be paid by customer rate increases. There is also the question did the transfer reduce or eliminate taxes normally owed on a sale by San Jose Water Company, to the city of San Jose, the State of California or Federal taxes? Then we need to also consider that an intra-corporate transfer between a regulated subsidiary and an unregulated subsidiary may have distorted the financial reports required by the SEC (Security & Exchange Commission.

This blogger would like to thank WRATES for their efforts in researching the transaction noted above, as well as others. For those of who are interested can access the information under:

APN# 529-31-041 - SJWC first transfers property to SJW Land. Then within 5 months SWJ Land sells to Sienna Oaks.
2005 Recorded Land Value when transferred to SJW Land - $45,228
2006 Recorded Land Value when sold to Sienna Oaks - $4,200,000
Sienna Oaks subdivided property to APN# 529-31-009, 100, 101, 102
This blogger hopes that a careful look will be taken, by appropriate agencies,  to determine, if we as customers and ratepayers need be concerned about this transaction and if it benefited, at the customer's expense, other parties.

What can you do:

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Sneaky way to charge you more without your approval! Senate Bill 231

This bill has been lurking in the darkened halls of state government, and is a very sneaky way to get around the "Howard Jarvis Law", that prevents local governments state wide from raising your property taxes, thinks the blogger.
"It’s more than a matter of definition. It’s an attempt to evade the requirements of Proposition 218, which prevents local governments from calling taxes “fees” to get around Proposition 13’s provision that two-thirds of voters must approve tax increases.
Proposition 218 included an exception for increases to taxes, fees and assessments for trash, household water and sewer service. By redefining “sewer” to include storm water, Hertzberg’s bill would allow local governments to pay for costly storm water management projects simply by adding hundreds or thousands of dollars to property tax bills.
Taxpayers would have the opportunity for a protest vote, but unless a majority of them knew about the increases and mailed in their protests within the time limit, the charges would go into effect." (By PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:
Well they are really trying to raise our property taxes without our 2/3 approval and without the justifying the cost to us or other justifications.

How much will it cost us, if signed by the Governor and your city starts a program to build rainwater using the current sewage system? Initial estimates vary, but home owners will see increases of $1,000 to $2,000 annually, in their property taxes - more in the Bay Area with our very high property valuations. This could force a major migration of high-tech out of Northern California.

There is also another sneaky piece of legislation:
SB231 merely attempts to override the decision by the Court of Appeal so cities can charge the cost of storm water management to taxpayers without calling it a tax, and without the approval of two-thirds of the voters.
That probably won’t stand up to a court challenge, so Sen. Robert Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys has also introduced Senate Constitutional Amendment 4, which currently contains only placeholder language. This companion bill could provide the means to override Proposition 218 — and any other constitutional protections that require municipalities to set utility rates based on the cost of service, not for raising revenue or modifying behavior. (By PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:
Tell the Governor that you oppose Senate Bill 231 and want to preserve your ability to approve all increases to your property taxes and you oppose Senate Constitutional Amendment 4.

What Ms., Mrs. and Mr. Home Owner can do:
 Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. Theodore Roosevelt 26th President of the US


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Oops! CPUC email address error

I had just received my copy of A.17-04-001, et al. MGA/KJB/ek4. This consolidates four cases from the largest private water utilities serving California, including San Jose Water Company (SJWC). The Cost of Capital cases have been consolidated. This is one of the first steps in the next rate case and could significantly affect your water rate, during 2018, 2019 and 2020.

The following is the background and the  link is to the actual document, http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PublishedDocs/Efile/G000/M191/K054/191054377.PD.
1. Background
On April 3, 2017, California’s four Class A water companies, San Jose
Water Company (San Jose), Golden State Water Company (Golden State), California-American Water Company (Cal-Am) and California Water Service Company (Cal Water), filed applications for authority to
establish their costs of capital for the 2018-2020 period. Notice of the filings appeared in the Commission’s Daily Calendar on April 10, 2017. The simultaneous filing follows the procedure set in Decision (D.) 09-05-019,fixing a uniform cost of equity and individual costs of capital for Class A water companies. On April 29, 2017, the proceeding was assigned to Administrative Law Judge(ALJ) Karl J. Bemesderfer
and Commissioner Martha Guzman Aceves.
Why would an error in an email address be of any significance? process.office@cpuc.ca.gov 
This is a problem as most consumers would stop when their email bounced! I expect that over 95% would give up. Great way to be transparent, limit participation and then say "Oops!".

A bad email address was provided in A.17-04-001, et al. MGA/KJB/ek4, page 6.

process.office@cpuc.ca.gov . I checked and found was not delivered, "rejected".

I checked further and found two other "valid ?" addresses process_office@cpuc.ca.gov  or possibly processoffice@cpuc.ca.gov. Both are listed on a Google Search at CPUC sources........................

I sent a CPUC complaint, online form entry, advising of this error and also sent a copy to the address process_office@cpuc.ca.gov which hasn't been rejected yet.

A simple solution is to insure all the failing addresses are aliased to correct address which ever you (CPUC) would like. 

Let's try to make sure CPUC that we don't make it anymore difficult for ratepayers to make their opinions heard and to access information affecting their utility rates.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

A very, very simple diagram of water and money . . . .

The diagram tries to show a very, very simplified version of where the Water you use comes from, suppliers, through a wholesaler (Santa Clara Valley Water District), the retailer for many of us in San Jose and surrounding cities SJWC (San Jose Water Company). 

Money is sent by over 220,000 water consumers and goes from Mr. H2O Consumer. He seems to be very, very surprised by the amount he must pay and the complexity of the bill. Mr. Consumer has little choice he must pay his bill or his water will be turned off, rapidly making his home "unlivable". This blogger thinks that there may be a health standard that is violated and may be grounds for a civil action, in the event this action occurs? When your a quasi-Monopoly as SJWC is termination of service is a very big stick. 

We hear the SJWC litany of fixed costs, infrastructure needs replacement and on, and on. Also it should be noted that SJW profits, revenues and dividends have significantly increased. 

Mr. John Tang's slide presentation, Los Gatos, pointed out that pumps and pipes (infrastructure) only got a D+ grade. I never found out when I talked with him after the meeting, if that was the grade for US or was specifically for SJWC? Blogger has to ask, If it was the grade for SJWC infrastructure, this blogger must ask wheres our money going are we going to be another Flint, MI.

What can Mr. H2O Consumer do? He can file Complaints. Will the complaints do any good? Yes, if Mr. H2O Consumer, his friends, family and his neighbors file complaints, the issues that are causing outrageous water bills and increases many times the rate of inflation, may be investigated.

We have three specific places to send Complaints to SJWC, CPUC and the California Department of Consumer Affairs. You can also take advantage of the social media (Facebook, Google+, Nextdoor, etc., TV stations (Investigate), Newspapers (Mercury News, San Jose Inside, etc.). You can also send Complaints to your elected officials, including elected and appointed commissioners.

The more effective a type of Complaint the more difficult it is to file the Complaint. Over time the requirements to file a Complaint have increased. This blogger has to think that the current process is biased, results in fewer consumer complaints filed and allows water utilities to say, "We get very few consumer Complaints, so there's no problems!".

What Ms., Mrs. and Mr. H2O Consumer can do:

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Remunicipalisation, putting water back in the hands of customers

We have been focused on the "outrageous" increases in our water bills, not on the root of the problem. My opinion as a blogger, it's unlikely that the underlying issues will be corrected without significant changes,  SJWC is a wholly owned subsidiary of SJW Corp. and is a privately owned water utility, our visibility into their SJWC actual financials, is limited. CPUC has also been characterized by Richard Roth CEO, as having a "constructive regulatory environment" with CPUC.  I thought CPUC has a mission statement that says:

The California Public Utilities Commission serves the public interest by protecting consumers and ensuring the provision of safe, reliable utility service and infrastructure at just and reasonable rates, with a commitment to environmental enhancement and a healthy California economy. We regulate utility services, stimulate innovation, and promote competitive markets, where possible, in the communications, energy, transportation, and water industries.

We can see that "constructive regulatory environment" means in a current case of SJWC overcharging customers, by failing to pro rate increases. Please read the posts regarding SJWC overcharging customers and the apparent ex parte communications and the resulting attempt to "quash" the Formal Complaint. In this instance instead of the overcharges of $13 million were requested in SJWC Advice Letter 510 to $1.7 million. The advise letters requesting the changes did not include attachments referenced, as usual.

We are not the only city, state or even country that has had significant rate increases due to corporate greed or incompetence.  Over 180 cities have taken back their water and sewage utilities. Why, because corporate ownership works to provide profits to the owners, government ownership provides water for people, California Law states, cities or counties must not operate for a profit. CPUC does not regulate them, they operate based on the California Water Resources Board report as an agency of the local government and must follow the Public Information Laws.

Water Remunicipalisation Tracker Map of USA
The following are some links to learn about remunicipalisation:
This is not a quick fix and has taken some of the cities years to regain control of their water utility. If you look at the map for the America, on the Water Remunicipalisation Tracker,  seven US Cities have taken back or trying to take back their water utility, including Atlanta and Gary and over 280 have also done it worldwide.

The following links to added information about remunicipalisation, were contributed by William Sherman, WRATES. There are and have been a staggering number of local governments and consumer efforts, in the USA to get back the control of water utilities back for the customers:
You can take part in this effort, by simply signing an online petition, commenting on this blog or simple sending a complaint online to CPUC and California Consumer Affairs, tell them "we want our water back".
".victory has 100 fathers and defeat is an orphan.", ". la vittoria ha 100 padri e la sconfitta è un orfano ."

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

SJWC Overcharges and Advise Letter 510

 SJWC overcharged ratepayers for many years, by failing to pro rate the charges properly. A serious error in the SJWC customer billing system and procedures. WRATES did extensive research, basically Forensic Accounting effort. If you ever looked closely at your water bill a non-trivial effort, especially in the face of limited transparency and conflicting statements by SJWC staff (This blogger thinks immediately of the 3D approach to customer service, distort, distract and deceive.)
SJWC with CPUC Water Division determined they could avoid apparently "nasty" questions by throwing a pittance to SJWC ratepayers/customers. Claiming a Statue of Limitations on repaying overcharges, limiting their repayment to $1.7 million rather than the $13 million in overcharges discovered. The obvious question the blogger must ask, is there cases of improper and incorrect accounting in other areas, "How much in overcharges does SJWC owe us?".

SJWC and the CPUC Water Division was advised that ORA (Office of Ratepayer Advocates, CPUC was requesting an Order Instituting Investigation (OII). 
What does this mean to San Jose Water Company (SJWC) and the CPUC Water Division: 

  • The investigation would look at the surcredit amount and the process the ADV #510 was created by. 
  • Is the surcredit a fair compensation to the SJWC ratepayers? or is it discriminatory in any fashion.
  • This includes the Process of how an Advice Letter is handled by CPUC and the submitting utility. 
  • Should all Advise Letters effecting ratepayers bills be handled differently or we most continue to be surprised by charges that the vast majority of ratepayers have no voice?
  • Who really decides what "tier" an advise letter should be in. 
  • Does a CPUC Director have the authority to arbitrarily delay a "Formal Complaint"? 
  • Does the utility (SJWC) and Water Division staff have the legal authority to have ex parte communications that are not made public or documented? 
  • Does the CPUC and utility (SJWC) get to publish an Advice Letter which references attachments that are not included?
  • This blogger also suggests that the  current Advice Letter structure is flawed and is heavily biased in favor of the utilities and severely limits the ratepayers ability to understand and effectively respond, to changes the may increase their charges. The 20 day response to file a complaint is a thinly disguised method to prevent ratepayer complaints.
  • Will a more general forensic accounting audit be performed? What will happen if SJWC has overcharged us over the past 30 years or more?
Conclusion of ORA Letter requesting an Investigation
The complete ORA letter requesting an investigation of how both parties, CPUC Water Division and the SJWC may be viewed, by clicking here.

In addition to signing this petition, it is very important that EACH and EVERY one of us file an informal complaint or comment with the CPUC and/or Consumer Affairs Branch! The more complaints they get, the more we will be heard.

Sign the  the WRATES petition at Change.org:

Complaint about CPUC and your comment about SJWC:

Complaint about SJWC, to Consumer Affairs Branch
WRATES Complaint Instruction page:
 Sorry US Postal Service, no stamps required. We can send email to our elected officials and the press and TV Investigative services:
".victory has 100 fathers and defeat is an orphan.", ". la vittoria ha 100 padri e la sconfitta è un orfano ."

Saturday, June 24, 2017

WRATES - Formal Complaint against SJWC, a very long journey

WRATES - Water Rate Advocates for Transparency, Equity and Sustainability 
approved posting this table

WRATES filed  a "Formal Complaint" with CPUC regarding a long history of overcharging SJWC (ratepayers) and failing to prorate the increased service charges. This particular complaint shows how difficult it has become for ratepayers, in particular customers of SJWC (San Jose Water Company) to get a straight answer.

The history, at this link, shows the steps that were went through to resolve the issue, with SJWC and CPUC (Water and Rates Department). Several events really shine a light on the machinations and the ex parte communications that occurred, in an attempt to avoid addressing the Formal Complaint. Additionally CPUC requested a list of the roughly 8,000 customers that filed "informal complaints", but their computers couldn't accept or CPUC staff was unwilling to download the file, so Rita Benton (WRATES) prepared and sent 8 copies on individual DVDs to CPUC.

Latest update from WRATES (Rita Benton)

Thank you to all who responded so quickly to the request for signatures for the formal complaint against SJWC regarding the Service Charge Overcharges. I received over 50 signatures in less than a day. I am so impressed with you all. I refiled the formal complaint on May 30, 2017. I was informed on June 7, 2017 by the docket office that I needed to jump through a few more hoops (the ~8000 petition signature file I submitted is too large and I needed to create a link to the file on the WRATES website and I will need to mail 9 DVD copies of the ~8000 petition signature file). I created the link on the WRATES website and I will purchase and mail the DVDs to the CPUC asap. At 4:44pm today, history was made and my formal complaint finally received a docket number - C.17-06-009. You can view the complaint and supporting documents at the CPUC website at the link below:
This blogger has to disclose,  I signed the Formal Complaint, along with over 50 other SJWC customers, not for the couple of bucks, but because it clearly points out that SJWC may have a long term history of accounting errors in not prorating charges it makes to it's customers. If it does, should it be a CPUC responsibility to protect ratepayers and conduct an audit of the SJWC financial records, not to stall the complaint and have ex parte conversations with SJWC executives, to avoid it going into the public record? The effort delayed the Formal Complaint, but persistence paid off, thanks to Rita Benton and WRATES.

If you haven't signed the WRATES complaint please do it now, let your opinion clearly heard by CPUC and SJWC.

In addition to signing this petition, it is very important that EACH and EVERY one of us file an informal complaint or comment with the CPUC and/or Consumer Affairs Branch! The more complaints they get, the more we will be heard.

Complaint about SJWC, to Consumer Affairs Branch

Complaint about CPUC and your comment about SJWC:
WRATES Complaint Instruction page:
 Sorry US Postal Service, no stamps required. We can send email to our elected officials and the press and TV Investigative services:

 Grasshopper, "The journey is the reward". 蚱蜢“旅程是奖励”

Thursday, June 8, 2017

SJWC needs to wear a mask, customer robbery in progress!

Bloggers comment, Filing a formal complaint resulted in Raminder Kahlon (CPUC Water and Rates), stalling the complaint process, so that one or more ex parte conversations were held during a 4 week delay in processing, to allow SJWC to devise a response (Advice Letter 510) then be told that signatures were required by CPUC. It appears to the blogger that while there was a reported verbal admission of ex parte discussions actual transcripts of the discussions are apparently not available, nor a list of participants - "How convenient", blogger.

Additionally there is the generously CPUC provided statue of limitations, for accounting errors. It doesn't say it's bi-directional, so it appears this was added to specifically protect the utilities from those ravenous customers, attempting to get fair treatment. If they were willing to spend the time to understand the SJWC bills.

VI. Statute of Limitations

Pub. Util. Code § 736 states in pertinent part:

"All complaints for damages resulting from the violation of any of the provisions of Section 494 [common carriers shall not charge other than applicable rates] or 532 [public utilities shall not charge other than rate specified in its schedules] shall either be filed with the commission, or, where concurrent jurisdiction of the cause of action is vested in the courts of this state, in any court of competent jurisdiction within three years from the time the action accrues, and not after."

Blogger comment: I thought improved "transparency and ex parte reporting requirements were supposed to be implemented by CPUC"?  

The WRATES and the author Rita Benton provided permission for this blogger to post a copy of following update below.
WRATES Update #14
Thank you to all who responded so quickly to the request for signatures for the formal complaint against SJWC regarding the Service Charge Overcharges. I received over 50 signatures in less than a day. I am so impressed with you all. I refiled the formal complaint on May 30, 2017. I was informed on June 7, 2017 by the docket office that I needed to jump through a few more hoops (the ~8000 petition signature file I submitted is too large and I needed to create a link to the file on the WRATES website and I will need to mail 9 DVD copies of the ~8000 petition signature file). I created the link on the WRATES website and I will purchase and mail the DVDs to the CPUC asap. At 4:44pm today, history was made and my formal complaint finally received a docket number - C.17-06-009. You can view the complaint and supporting documents at the CPUC website at the link below:
Much has happened since my last update...
1. As you know, SJWC filed Advice Letter 508 and 508A on May 2 and May 4 respectively. They then filed advice letter 508B on May 26 and it was quickly approved by the CPUC two days later. Our protests for advice letter 508(A) did not sway the CPUC Water Division’s decision. Because of this approval, SJWC is allowed to recover the 2014 & 2015 WCMA more quickly so our rates increased for the typical user using 15ccf/mo. an additional 3.30% (not .95%) on June 1, 2017.
2. SJWC filed Advice Letter 509 and 509A on May 26, 2017. This will increase our rates an additional 3.66% for the typical user using 15ccf/mo. This is the pass through increase to offset the purchased and ground water charges from SCVWD (9.6% x 38% = 3.66%). This increase will go into effect on July 1, 2017. WRATES is not going to protest this advice letter. WRATES already fought this increase with the SCVWD in late 2016 and early 2017 and succeeded in reducing SCVWD’s wholesale rate increase from 16.7% down to 9.6%. Had SCVWD increased its wholesale rate 16.7%, advice letter 509(A) would be seeking a rate increase of 6.35%. Small victory.
And now for the BIG Advice Letter....
3. SJWC filed Advice Letter 510 on June 6, 2017. https://sjwater.s3.amazonaws.com/files/documents/ADV510Web.pdf
With this advice letter, SJWC is requesting a surcredit refund to its customers for the service charge overcharges. If approved, each residential customer with a 3/4” meter will be refunded $5.70, 1” will be refunded $9.49 etc. I have protested this advice letter because SJWC overcharged its customers in excess of $13 million and it is seeking to refund its customers only $1.7 million. That is not just or fair. 
I sent the following email to the CPUC Water Division and Commissioners and News outlets. I believe this story is newsworthy. Please call news organizations and share this information, the formal complaint and supporting documents.
Advice Letter 510 is completely unjust and unfair. Whatever agreement the CPUC Water Division and SJWC worked out to refund the ratepayer for the service charge overcharges is unacceptable. The service charge overcharges are well in excess of $13 million dollars, not $1.7 million as stated in Advice Letter 510. This settlement does not address several key points.
The CPUC and SJWC have circumvented the formal complaint I filed with the CPUC on April 17, 2017. My formal complaint was put on hold for unknown reasons on April 18, 2017 by Raminder Kahlon and then taken off hold by Raminder Kahlon on May 22, 2017 after my inquires. I refiled the formal complaint on May 30, 2017, including 70 signatures to comply with Rule 4.1(b) which requires only 25 signatures. I was informed by the docket office of Rule 4.1(b) a few days after Raminder Kahlon took the complaint off hold. Raminder Kahlon then informed me of Rule 4.1(b) a day later implying that that was why my complaint was on hold.
There are inadequate details about how SJWC calculated the surcredit. All dates and amounts of overcharges need to be clearly explained and documented. 
Advice Letter 510 only acknowledges a small, 3 year period of overcharges. SJWC has been overcharging its customers for decades.
There is no explanation as to how SJWC arrived at 22.4% as a percentage of the current service charge.
Advice Letter 510 ignores the fact that customers were double-billed during the transition from billing in advance to billing in arrears.
The PUC surcharge which is affected by the overcharges is not addressed. There should be a PUC surcharge adjustment.
The San Jose City tax which is affected by the overcharges is not addressed. There should be a San Jose City tax adjustment.
Interest on overcharges is not addressed. The ratepayer should be entitled to the interest SJWC earned on the overcharges.
As I stated in several of my previous emails, letters and phone calls, the service charge overcharges that SJWC has been charging its customers for decades needs a formal forensic audit not an “internal informal investigation” as stated by the Water Division. Advice Letter 510 proves that point. 
I respectfully request that Advice Letter 510 be rejected so all information can be properly examined through a formal investigation. The ratepayers are entitled to and deserve justice against SJWC. It is time for the CPUC to honor its mission statement and align itself with the ratepayer and not the utility.
To recap the Advice Letter Rate Increases since January 1, 2017
AL 498 - 3.83% - general rate case increase - approved
AL 501 - 3.65% - SRM drought shortfall recovery - rejected & SJWC currently appealing
AL 506 - 1.51% - Montevina Upgrade Project - approved
AL 508 - 3.30% - 2014/15 WCMA mandatory conservation recovery - approved
AL 509 - 3.66% - SCVWD pass through increase - approval expected
TOTAL: 12.30% rate increases thus far and if SJWC is successful at appealing AL 501, the total increase will be 15.95%.
Since 2013, the CPUC has allowed SJWC to increase its rates an average of 20% per year and at this rate, SJWC should achieve or surpass their 20% increase for 2017. If your anger towards the CPUC and SJWC has subsided, it shouldn’t. Our water is quickly becoming unaffordable. 
Please take some time to read this document I found on the CPUC’s website called “Water Rate Scenario Planning”. The CPUC is using SJWC in their 5 Scenarios and lists the Avg User as 10 CCF/month, High User as 15 CCF/month and Very High User as 20 CCF/month. None of the scenarios include all the additional surcharges we receive on our bills and it looks like they intend to increase our rates even more. 
Additional CPUC working documents can be found at http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/ppd_work/
WRATES members are also analyzing SJWC’s Cost of Capital application 17-04-001 that was filed on April 10, 2017. This Cost of Capital is the foundation for the next general rate case for setting our rates for the years 2019, 20 & 21. I will keep you updated when I have more information to share.

Please take a moment and:

Sign the "Outrageous Water Bills" petition at http://www.change.org 

If you have valid grounds for a complaint go to
http://www.sjwfacts.weebly.com  and click on File Complaint