James Hunter

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

SJWC Rate Increase maybe all wet, but CPUC has other "Hot Potatoes" !

We seem to be getting too many 
"Hot Potatoes" 
is CPUC too friendly with the Utilities?

Will the increasing criticism of CPUC delay a decision or prevent the commissioners, from improving the terms that SJWC will get on the Rate Increase (GRC A1201003)?

We are again confronted with an apparent lack of transparency and openness. We are faced with questions of potential professional integrity and whether CPUC is representing Ratepayers in an unbiased manner? What is fair and reasonable for a utility to provide either directly or indirectly through third-parties, to a government agency and it's staff and officers. This includes meals, trips, seminars that are provided to CPUC staff that is supposed, to regulate the utilities, in California? Will these possible "gratuities" have any effect on the decisions of CPUC?

This is without raising the embarrassing questions about using what is typically supposed to be working time to attend international seminars, all expenses paid? Does the "gain" from the "gratuities" need to be declared, for Federal and State taxes? It's about time we need CPUC to lead the state, I believe, in setting higher standards for integrity and ethics.  There should not be a concern on the part of the California's ratepayers that CPUC's decisions and rulings are biased in any fashion and made with awareness that a key important part of CPUC's Mission is to represent the States ratepayers and regulate the utilities.

Do we need to have a Ethics Overview Committee? To review the actions of CPUC? Composed of Ratepayers? Most cities have citizen oversight committees, of the police, why not CPUC?

Some quotes to keep in mind as we hopefully try to create an open, unbiased, transparent CPUC, for the both Ratepayers and the Utilities, of California, click on the quote to visit the source:

California Public Utility Commission 

"The CPUC regulates privately owned electric, natural gas, telecommunications, water, railroad, rail transit, and passenger transportation companies, in addition to authorizing video franchises. Our five Governor-appointed Commissioners, as well as our staff, are dedicated to ensuring that consumers have safe, reliable utility service at reasonable rates, protecting against fraud, and promoting the health of California's economy."
"Working For You: Commissioners and Staff  
The Governor appoints five Commissioners for as President. Commissioners make all policy decisions, usually meeting twice a month to vote on issues noted on a public agenda. 
In order to fulfill its role in overseeing services that are essential to the lives of Californians, the CPUC employs a dedicated staff of analysts, economists, engineers, administrative law judges, accountants, lawyers, safety and professionals. It also has a Division of Ratepayer Advocates, an independent division that represents consumers in CPUC proceedings."

California Public Utility Commission - Office of Ratepayer Advocates (DRA)

ORA'S Mission 
Our statutory mission is to obtain the lowest possible rate for service consistent with reliable and safe service levels.  In fulfilling this goal, ORA also advocates for customer and environmental protections.
U.S. Supreme Court definition that has been repeatedly referenced in past Commission decisions: 

United States Supreme Court 

The United States Supreme Court has broadly defined the revenue requirement of utility companies as being the minimum amount which will enable the company to operate successfully, to maintain its financial integrity, and to compensate its investors for risk assumed. Note 7

 Note 7, D.92366 (1980) 4 CPUC 438; D.86794 (1976) 81 CPUC 53; 

It makes me wonder when confronted with a Utility requesting a 44% increase, reducing to about 39% when ORA pointed out obvious items that needed adjustment, then DRA/ORA recommends a bit more than 10%, the the ALJ's (after over two and a half years) Proposed Decision is roughly 22%. Which is over twice the inflation rate! Please keep in mind the CPUC Commissioners may change the Proposed Decision. 

We the Ratepayers have 30 (less than) 15 days to let CPUC, Public Officials and the Press/TV aware of our concerns.  As well both SJWC and ORA/DRA.

Please send email, as noted in the closing paragraphs,
time is running out, to make your opinion heard!

 If you are concerned about these issues, send email to CPUC at: District 5 United eForm eMail  Simply click on the "eForm eMail" and you will get a page to fill out the information and specify the reason for your opposition to the SJWC Rate Increase, the continuing refusal to open and transparent about their expenses and operations, Express your concern about CPUC's apparent biased position and practices working with the utilities, as well as losing sight of their responsibility to us the Ratepayers. 

Comment by the blogger James Hunter:

"We have a 6 Billion dollar proposed state bill to build infrastructure more dams and reservoirs, hopefully, and we should look hard at items that won't store or directly save water. Lets make sure the bill spends our tax money wisely, we can be sure there will be another drought and being prepared should be our goal! Let's attach a requirement for providing and disclosing public information on all matters concerning CPUC. Let's look at the expenses, travel and gratuities enjoyed by CPUC Commissioners and management.
I'm also opposed to effectively a monopoly utility having ratepayers guaranteeing their profits, in spite of other conditions and especially the "cloak of secrecy" SJW Corp. and other utilities invoke. In the spirit of disclosure, I am a shareholder in SJW Corp., I've owned ten (10) shares for over a year."
You can also send an email to CPUC Public Advisopublic.advisor@cpuc.ca.gov  The Public Adviser will insure your email will be sent to all the appropriate CPUC staff members.

Other people to drop an email (note) and express your opinion are:
  • Scott Herhold, San Jose Mercury News, sherhold@mercurynews.com
  • Julie Putnam, NBC Channel 5, julie.putnam@nbcuni.com

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