James Hunter

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".
Remember,
".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:
https://goo.gl/hqXzAE

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:
Remember,
".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
Hello WRATES,
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

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Homeserve USA 75% of customer ratings are NEGATIVE!

I typically see an increase in visitors to this blog when HomeServe USA promotes their insurance products and services.


Always keep in mind that the BBB A+ rating does not imply or guarantee the value or quality of HomeServe USA products or services. The A+ rating simply guarantees that HomeServe USA follows the BBB guidelines, pays the annual fees for the BBB accreditation service and that does not guarantee HomeServe USA customers satisfaction, with HomeServe or what they have purchased from them.
Notice the customer review ratings immediately below the A+ BBB rating, below the logo "BBB Accredited Business.  we can see are roughly 75% were negative reviews, 10% were neutral and 15% were positive.

This bloggers opinion is that a significant improvement has not been made by HomeServe and the San Jose Water Company continues to support and recommend we purchase this "insurance". I urge prospective purchasers to carefully read the reviews from the shown in the customers own words and submitted to BBB, before you buy.

This is the ninth posting I've done and I hope it encourages buyers, in particular ratepayers of SJWC, to read a bit, do a search on the internet and form their own opinion and make an informed decision.

So far I don't see any significant changes from, what I've documented, in my previous postings:

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

SJWC is overcharging it's Customers!



Recently SJWC submitted an Advice Letter # 498 and I have several issues with this rate change. Basically the added charge started almost two months early.

Is it a simple billing error or is it something that has happened before? It cost the 225,000 home owners roughly an apparent overcharge of as much as $400,000, this time.


The cover sheet states that the effective date is January 1, 2017. This blogger has to ask if SJWC accounting and IT have a calendar?

The current system of Advise Letters provides 20 days from SJWC filing with CPUC, to the close of protests. Is this adequate time for consumers to effectively protest? From the time the customer gets the bill and realizes a charge increased is likely about 14 days, which in most customer cases, in this instance, they will have lost the opportunity, since the Protest Deadline was December 5, 2016. The blogger got the bill with the apparent early billing, on about January 15, 2017. Assume the customer tries and spends several hours, over several days, trying to figure out how much they should have been charged, the convenient 20 day period has long passed. Then be told that unless they file a formal complaint, an interesting challenge since it may require a trip to CPUC on most customers work day, as well as filing in accordance with CPUC Regulations.


Let's look at what we can "Protest" in the Advice Letter 498, based on the 6 specific grounds that a customer "could"  protest on, if the customer was able to do so. The typical customer would miss the Deadline by as much as 30 days, there is no single basis for a protest that says they "started billing me almost two months before they should", in legalese.

The next step is to file a complaint there are informal and formal complaints, since this wasn't protested, or it might have been, but that doesn't become a public record, Oops! You should also note that this is typically not something either ORA or the CPUC Water Division are looking at and make the assumption that SJWC will manage their customer billing properly.

So that leaves filing a formal complaint, especially since this may not be the only instance early billing has been made, erroneously billing SJWC customers. This blogger thinks it's really time to audit if the effective dates of increases in charges are accurately showed in customer bills!

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


Monday, December 5, 2016

San Jose Water Company and Santa Clara Valley Water District drought actions discriminatory?


The recent SJWC and SCVWD meeting at the Los Gatos, council chamber was standing room only. The presentation by John Tang, VP SJWC was interrupted by the audience trying to ask questions, only written questions were answered. The written questions were asked, but appeared to be somewhat filtered. About half the audience after a period heckling and booing left as they appeared to see little chance of getting their concerns addressed.

The slide presentation, first slide set the tone, "the ASCE rates the infrastructure of water systems as a D". I talked with John after the meeting and he said that it was for the entire US, I missed that as well as other attendees, probably because of the booing.

We've paid millions in parcel taxes, to SCVWD, as well as rate increases, to SJWC and all we get is basically a failing grade? We see $69 billion (estimated) for a high speed rail connection to Los Angles, how about spending a major part of that on our potholes, bridges and on our water infrastructure?

Angry residents in Saratoga, CA have started a petition, "Outrageous Water Bills?! Let CPUC know that SJWC's unfair billing practices need to STOP!". Please take a moment and signup.

The issues that I have raised as well the group which organized the Los Gatos meeting were actually addressed by SJW/SJWC in a document written in 1992, 24 years ago, by Robert Day, now Director of SJWC Customer service. This document  is available on a San Jose city server at an open public link for my readers convenience a public copy is also on Google for download and viewing and to insure it remains available.

SJWC has not provided :"Water Banking" unused amount of allocations would be saved and applied to your future water bills, avoiding hopefully some of the water penalty charges. We've been told that SJWC can't do that now. It's odd that it was exactly what was proposed 24 years ago, see Appendix B and C that was written in 1992, by SJWC. I also found out that apparently SJWC uses an Oracle utility billing package an SJWC VP stated in a web video that the package was extremely flexible and could handle any envisioned tariff complexity............. this Blogger has to ask, "does SJWC not want to do it rather than can't do it? Bite the bullet SJWC be honest and transparent and tell us the truth". View the video and form your opinion.
 
Dana Drysdale, VP Information Systems, SJWC convinced me that SJWC can do "Water Banking" even 24 years later, did he convince you?

The document written 24 years ago also addresses "Allocations" of water by user, based on a prior year usage, in the case of the document in the Appendix B,C, D the year was 1987, before that drought. Further it divided the year into summer and winter, rather than allocations by month the same for all users. SJWC has also decided that a "one size fits all approach" to water allocations. SJWC also discriminates (Blogger opinion) by not applying the drought allocation to business and industry , as well as apartment buildings.
SJWC places the burden of meeting the conservation requirements on owners of single family dwellings. The fair approach is all water meters should be subject to the same rules. Otherwise this is a clear case of discrimination (bloggers opinion). Reality is simple and fair, you have a meter, you used water during the same period in the year before the drought you must cut your usage by NN%. 

The Kiss Principle at work! (Keep It Simple S@#$%)  (Bloggers suggestion, easy to understand, it's a simple single program, should appeal to SCVWD and SJWC because of simplicity).
Excess water use will be penalized. Allocations should be based on your base year use and your allocation a percentage of periods in the base year.  If you have conserved and have a positive saving balance of banked water units that can be applied in lieu of penalty charges. The penalty will be added to your water bill. The penalty percentage will be determined by the State Water Resources Board based on the severity of the drought. The program would be mandatory for all public and private water utilities. If changes are made all water utilities will comply or be penalized. Continue the program to review written adjustment applications in water use for valid, verifiable cause.
 SJWC is a 100% wholly owned subsidiary of SJW Corp. (symbol SJW). This creates issues in the area of transparency to ratepayers (customers) and the press. We can look at the SEC information that SJW must file and we can look at some of the filings that SJWC makes with CPUC. SJWC has the option of requesting certain information be either not published online or redacted. Our view of many of the decision processes is obfuscated. The California Public information laws are not applicable to CPUC communications with the utilities they are supposed to regulate in the best interest of ratepayers. Theoretically if CPUC adhered to it's defined objectives we might as ratepayers feel we were getting the best service and financial deal we should expect. Something has gone wrong with the regulation of quasi-monopolies like PG&E (Electric & Gas) and likely with the class A water utilities like SJWC. I've attended two public meetings and  each meeting had over 250 irate ratepayers attending who have been really unhappy with the justifications and unreasonable rates. An amazing number of people that turn out to attempt to voice their concerns  to SJWC. This bloggers opinion is that CPUC has been too "constructive" with SJWC and lost sight of who they are supposed to represent, ORA/DRA are advocates for ratepayers and do very well with the limited staff CPUC has allowed them. I doubt it's possible to "claw-back" any of the prior benefits that a constructive regulatory environment, except in obviously outrageous situations like the PG&E gas line fires and nuclear power plant decommissioning (bloggers opinion), what are future efforts to fix the utility system that is taking advantage of the ratepayers for the excessive benefit of management and stockholders? Do we need a oversight committee that can be ratepayers living in the utilities to watch the operations more closely? Governor Brown appointed a new commissioner/president of CPUC over a year ago, when does the honeymoon end and we the ratepayers see some actions, or do we continue to provide a constructive regulatory environment for SJWC and other water utilities? May be the best approach is to buy SJW stock it's been a great investment for me. I bought 10 shares 4 years ago, so I could go to annual meetings, and have doubled my money plus dividends. If enough ratepayers bought 10 shares we can all go to the annual meeting and even possibly elect a board member to represent our interests. A interesting idea ............... sure to cause heartburn, for some readers.

Our water conservation, SJWC profit protection and the apparent "constructive regulatory environment", seems to have been very beneficial for SJW/SJWC finances, rather than ours. The following is a excerpt from Zacks financial report:
The company has reported a positive earnings surprise in two out of the last four quarters, resulting in an average positive surprise of 47.57%.
SJW Corp. offers excellent investment opportunity for investors due to its proven business model and a viable capital program, which drives rate base and earnings growth. The company is benefiting from a constructive regulatory environment, with mechanisms in place to provide protection for sales lost due to the ongoing drought and mandatory water conservation rules.

In June, the California Public Utilities Commission issued the final decision on the 2016 general rate case for San Jose Water Company, SJW Corp.’s wholly owned subsidiary. The final decision authorized rates that will add nearly $25.1 million or 8.6% to revenues in 2016.
Richard Roth the CEO of SJW Corporation was apparently the source of that quote, in his comments on the SJW's (SJW) CEO Richard Roth on Q2 2016 Results - Earnings Call stated, click to view actual Seeking Alpha transcript of the investor conference call::
A constructive regulatory environment with mechanisms in place to provide protection for sales lost due to the drought and related mandatory conservation rules. Strong cash flow as we continue to collect the 2013 and 2014 true-up adjustment resulting from a late decision on San Jose Water Company’s 2012 General Rate Case and a high level of capital investments delivering robust growth and rate base.
Does "constructive regulatory environment" does this mean CPUC didn't represent ratepayers interest in effectively negotiating for the best rate? Was CPUC to easy in allowing capital investments that resulted in more dollars going to the guaranteed SJW Corp. profit from SJWC?

In summary we find that after research, SJWC documents show that a significant percentage of SJWC ratepayers unhappiness and disaffection would have been addressed if SJWC  followed the 1992 drought conservation plan. The relationships CPUC has had with the utilities it was supposed to regulate in the best interests of the ratepayers was probably overly an "constructive regulatory environment". SJWC as we should realize operates in the interests of it's directors and shareholders, but is a monopoly in all but name and avoids being transparent except as required by law. May be time to change some of those laws.
 
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

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Outrageous Water Bills?! Let CPUC know that SJWC's unfair billing practices need to STOP!



In 2012, SJW requested a 44% increase over 2013, 2014 & 2015 from CPUC. This was not approved but, today, with CPUC’s approval of the MANY additional surcharges and rate increases, SJW is now charging 71% more than in 2013 if you are under your allocation. The increase goes up even more drastically if you go over your allocation. ie: 50ccf=128%,  60ccf=155%, 100ccf=208%, 150ccf=237%. These rates are truly outrageous!   (Based on a comparison of 2013 & 2016 Jul/Aug bills. 71% is based on "typical" customer using 15ccf/mo.)
All of California is in this drought together but San Jose Water Company is way out of line with their rates, allocations, surcharges and "true-up" surcharges. Other water companies in the Bay Area are charging their customers much, much less. Neighboring, Great Oaks Water, which services parts of San Jose, is charging their customers 87% LESS than SJW. They also get their water from the Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD), just like SJW, and they are also a for profit, investor-owner, company regulated by the CPUC.
Why has the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved these extreme rate hikes and surcharges to SJW? This needs to be repealed and SJW should be required to reimburse its customers. 
The CPUC and SJW need to address the following issues and make change.
1 – We are paying the price. SJW is making huge profits because of rate and surcharge increases that SJW requested and CPUC approved. SJW is a for profit company and publicly traded on the NY stock exchange. Their 3rd quarter 2016 revenue was $112.3 million, a 35.4% increase over 3rd quarter 2015. SJWCorp. stock has risen over 73% since January 2016.
Richard Roth, SJW CEO, recently stated, "...[SJW] provides superior service levels and delivers reliable water supplies at a reasonable price." and “the company’s cash flow remains robust…” This is happening on the backs of its customers. SJW is exploiting the drought in California for huge financial gain. Surely, the CPUC can repeal their rate and surcharge decisions.
 2 – Our Rates are Not Reasonable. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is responsible for ensuring that California’s investor-owned water utilities deliver clean, safe, and reliable water to their customers at reasonable rates
We are using considerably less water and our bills are 71% higher than our 2013 bills. Some customers are receiving bills over $2000. These rates are not reasonable.
 3 – Unfair Water Allocations. SJW has allocated the same amount of water for all its customers during drought conditions, excluding apartments, commercial/industrial customers. Water allocations should be based on number in household and lot size. Two people living in a condo are not going to require as much water as a family of 4 living in a single family home on a 10,000 square foot lot. Homeowners and house renters with a water meter, 60% of users, are being held responsible for almost the entire burden of the mandatory drought rationing. SJWC decided to exclude 40% of water users: apartments, commercial/industrial customers. This is discrimination that unfairly places the costs on a unique class of users.
 If we do not use our water allocation for a given month, we do not get to “bank” the extra and save it for a non-rainy day.
4 – SJW Needs to be Transparent. SJW bills are so confusing and difficult to decipher that even their customer service department is unable to explain the math for all the different surcharges.
We were informed that there would be an 8.6% increase but the tier rates reflects a 26% increase. John Tang with SJW stated that this is because they added an additional $0.64 per ccf in surcharges and then added the 8.6% increase to the January rate of $3.21. This brings our new tier rates to $4.05, $4.50 & $4.95. Additional Drought Surcharge rates are DS1-$3.56 & DS2-$7.13 per ccf. This math still does not add up to an 8.6% increase.
SJW also decreased our water allotments per tier. Previously, tier1 was for 0-13 ccf per month and now, tier1 is 0-3 ccf per month, tier2 is 3-18 ccf and tier3 is 18+. The tier rates will not decrease and tier allotments will not  increase when the drought is over.
 5 – SJW Water Data Collection is Imprecise yet our bills are precise to .00001 ccf. SJW currently does not know how much water its customers use during a given month. Their 2 month billing cycles have loose start and end dates yet our water allocations are on a monthly basis.
6 – SJW Employees receive their water Free of Charge and are not subject to Drought Allocation Surcharges. This puts them out of touch with their customers.
In addition to signing this petition, it is very important that EACH and EVERY one of us file a complaint with the CPUC! The more complaints they get, the more we will be heard. www.sjwfacts.weebly.com/file-complaint.html
For further information visit www.sjwfacts.weebly.com
This petition will be delivered to:
  • California Public Utilities Commission
    Catherine Sandoval, Commissioner
  • California Public Utilities Commission
    Michael Picker, Commissioner-President
  • San Jose Water Company
    John Tang, VP Government Relations & Corp. Communications

Sunday, October 16, 2016

SJWC is really green (profits), our yards are brown................

We are at the beginning of the 6th year of drought. Seems odd as I look out my office window at the very light rain falling from a series of storm fronts, at my landscaping and grass. Hopefully some of the dead spots and shrubs will make an effort to turn green again.

Which raises several questions regarding the "financial" performance of SJW Corp. who wholly owns San Jose Water Company. A Yahoo Financial article caught my attention several weeks ago, I encourage readers to read the original article and form their opinion. Click to read.

Several things really drew my attention:
"SJW Corp. offers excellent investment opportunity for investors due to its proven business model and a viable capital program, which drives rate base and earnings growth. The company is benefiting from a constructive regulatory environment, with mechanisms in place to provide protection for sales lost due to the ongoing drought and mandatory water conservation rules."
I wonder what a "constructive regulatory environment" means, to us the ratepayers/customers  We may possibly have seen a "constructive regulatory environment", between CPUC and PG&E and this resulted in enacting more stringent rules for CPUC's relationships with the utilities. Does this also apply to the water utilities?

SJW Corporation stock has about doubled during the drought, in part because their profits are guaranteed by the last two rate cases. Their dividends have increased to shareholders and have had a surprisingly good earnings performance, I'll leave it up to my readers to guess where the money came from, just a pointed hint, "you and I".
"The company has reported a positive earnings surprise in two out of the last four quarters, resulting in an average positive surprise of 47.57%." 
 Based on some of the stock analysts, some indications are the operations could be more efficient compared to peer group of water utilities. Since there was a reference to a "constructive regulatory environment" it worth watching closely to see what this may mean to ratepayers.

My next posting will look at the impact of drought on the water rates and look closely at what ratepayers/customers might do to control their water costs. Meanwhile let's all hope for a wet rain season, but also plan for the drought to continue.