James Hunter

Sunday, May 31, 2015

SJWC Pubic Hearing Thursday 5/28/2015, Public Speakers Comments

Comment from the blogger to readers: I'll try to post the comments made by Public attendees that spoke at the Public Hearing, "Notice of Proposed Contingency Plan with Staged Mandatory Reductions and Drought Surcharges and Public Hearing". The Public Hearing was held on Thursday, May 28, 2015, 7:00 PM, Rotary Summit Center, 88 South 4th Street, San Jose, CA 95112.  I'll make an effort to be unbiased and factual, if anything is otherwise I'll note that it's a "comment or blogger" which will indicate its' editorial in nature or a comment from the blogger (me).

Blogger: "Attendance was estimated by one reporter at 350 attendees. After the opening slides by SJWC the floor of the meeting was opened for the Q&A session. The Q&A session lasted close to 3 hours. Attendees stood in line for as long as 2 or more hours waiting for an opportunity to speak. Everyone seemed to feel the drought was important, but the Program announced by SJWC was flawed, unfair and the drought surcharges too high." There was a strongly voiced feeling that the SJWC Drought Program submitted to CPUC was very unfair, in many specific areas, to the attendees at the Public Hearing. When it became apparent based on statements by SJWC that the comments (public input) would not be considered by CPUC since no official transcript or recording was being made.  Contrary to the information published by SJWC and mailed to its customers. Public Speakers and the audience expressed their unhappiness about this. There was some bo's and more than a bit of heckling from the audience.  In general it would appear that the Public Hearing was likely an embarrassment or worse to SJWC, it appears in retrospect SJWC should be glad only 350 ratepayers/customers made the effort to participate and only about 25% were willing to stand in line, up to over 2 hours,  to voice their opinions and offer their public input.

The following issues/problems were raised by public speakers:
  • The Monthly "Draft" Drought Allocation was felt unfair as it was established based on 70% average monthly use by month by SJWC, for residential use.
  • Public speakers felt that apartment buildings and businesses were unfairly exempted from the conservation program.
  • The 30% monthly reduction, compared to 2013 months, based on a SJWC average, as well is 20% being the State requirement, unfair when the requirement was less..
  • Public speakers were very upset when it became apparent that no transcription or official recording was made, not allowing their comment to be considered by CPUC in making a decision on the SJWC Drought filing, Advise Letter # 473.
  • Not fair that SJWC doesn't support "roll-over" or "bank" unused Monthly Drought Allocation (CCF).
  • Public Speakers felt that the SJWC water rates and Drought Surcharges were too high. 
  • Public Speakers were concerned that collected Drought Surcharges would be used for things other than conservation related expenses, by SJWC.
  • Several Public Speakers, builders of Spas and Pools. felt the drought guidelines would damage their businesses.
  • Public speakers felt the conservation rebates were insufficient, in the areas of turf removal, plumbing upgrades (toilet replacement). and other points.
  • Public speakers with established gardens (vegetable), trees and shrubs were concerned losing plants and trees they had been growing for 10 or more years, due to water restrictions and Drought Surcharges.
If I missed a topic raised by a speaker at the Public Hearing, please add a comment to this blog posting or send me an email at j88hunter882@gmail.com and I will be happy to add your topic to the list above, as well as the commented list below. Please try to keep your comment to three lines or 250 letters whichever is lower. Please indicate if you want attribution, example "JH Almaden" otherwise it will be posted as "Comment".

Speakers made following points:
  • The Monthly "Draft" Drought Allocation was established based on the 70% average residential use of the month in 2013.
    • Many speakers felt it should be based on their actual use in 2013, not an average. "one size fits only one person well". Since many of the speakers had been actively reducing their water use for at least two years, their actual use in 2013 by month be a more fair method.
      Comment: It should be noted that California Water Systems addresses this point, as well as roll-over/banking of unused monthly water allocations. When I spoke (about 10:45 PM, one of the last three speakers) at the hearing I raised this specific item to the SJWC representatives and suggested they discuss this with their IT Department.
    • Many speakers felt it didn't adequately consider the number of people in the residence and there should be a way to adjust this. Comment: SJWC speakers did commit to setting up a procedure to appeal the number of people per residence and request relief for medical reasons.
  • Apartment buildings and business should not be exempted from the conservation filing. Commentmost of these are not sub-metered and use a single meter. SJWC representatives didn't seem to offer a satisfactory explanation, other than landscaping companies were not exempted and that was a portion of the water use that could be monitored, but didn't explain how?
    • The 70% Drought Allocation , a 30% reduction 0f the 2013 average each month, was a concern for speakers. Comment: The Governor's Executive Order requires a mandatory statewide cumulative reduction in water use, of 25%. Further there are percentages established by the CA State Water Board for 433 cities or districts in nine tiers. The amount of reduction goes in steps from 4% to 36%. SJWC and the City of San Jose Water service are both 20%. The Santa Clara Valley Water District increased this to 30%, the stated reason was the over pumping of groundwater was causing the ground to sink, in areas of the valley. In the event of subsidence (sinking) damage could occur to roads, sidewalks) underground pipes (gas, water, telephone, TV, etc.), residences and other buildings. The aquifer can also be damaged by removing too much groundwater and reducing its future storage capacity.
    • Speakers found out in the process of the Q&A that neither CPUC or SJWC were making an official transcriptComment: The speakers and it seemed a majority of the 350 attendees that the purpose of the hearing was not honest, but simple way to check off a required legal step. Speakers questioned that there was, No intent to submit the public input to CPUC for consideration. This appeared to be confirmed by SJWC representatives, that consideration would be given at some point in the future when SJWC could revisit the points, since the package was already in-process at CPUC and no changes were possible.
    • Speakers raised the question can they "roll-over" or "bank" unused Monthly Drought Allocation (CCF).  Comment: SJWC representatives indicated that this could not be done? Whether at all or do to other SJWC management determined restrictions. It should be noted that California Water Systems offers a "roll over".
    • Many speakers raised a concern about the water rates and Drought Surcharges, being too high. Comment: There is another General Rate Case being processed requesting another 21% increase for 2016, 2017, 2018, inflation is less than 3%, so their asking twice the inflation rate? SJWC apparently rushed to get a $0.56 rate increase, to balance accounts, in place by May 2015. SCVWD just increased the pump tax (charge to pump water from the ground water in Santa Clara Valley.
    • Many speakers raised the concern that the collected Drought Surcharges would be used for other than actual drought related costs. Comment: SJWC representatives responded that collected Drought Surcharges (penalties to use the un PC word) only with CPUC approval. Given the current questions as to whose interests they (CPUC) represent and investigations of the past - President and his Chief of Staff just retired from CPUC, the last position of the ex-Chief of Staff was apparently for the CPUC Director of the Water department. Does anyone else harbor any reservations regarding potential bias or the possibility of less than ethical actions? A lot of attendees at the hearing may harbor some concerns, from their comments.
    • There were several speakers that are active in the pool and spa business, they indicated a significant unemployment due to the drought restrictions. Comment: They had a valid concern of the economic and employment effects to their businesses.Unused pools also represent a health hazard (mosquitoes). Blogger: To be fair the complaints are even louder from the agricultural segment, their water allocations in many cases have been cut to 0% - in the Central Valley that's right none. I hope anyone that reads this will begin to understand the severity of the drought now and much more severe if it continues into 2016 or 2017.
    • Public speakers felt that conservation rebate programs were not effective and an added cost to SJWC customers. Some of the rebates are offered and managed by Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD). Comment: There seemed to be a general feeling that the rebates were inadequate to compensate ratepayers, for the out0of-pocket costs. Blogger: The current filing by SJWC for their next General Rate Case GRC 1501002, while speaking "glowingly" of the success it appears that only 1-2% of the SJWC have participated. In the final analysis it seems apparent that the economic benefit to the SJWC, would be more effective than trying to appeal to altruism, which doesn't pay the customers bills!   Sounds like a good topic for a posting to this blog!
    • Public speakers with established gardens (vegetable), trees and shrubs were concerned losing plants and trees they had been growing for 10 or more years, due to water restrictions and Drought Surcharges. Comment: This really is in a major part related to the SJWC establishing an arbitrary rationing system based on 2013 monthly average use. All of the speakers indicated they have reduced their water usage compared to their 2013 usage by 30% or more. The financial impact will be significant as a result of the very high Drought Surcharges (really penalties) and they would have to let much of their plantings, trees and shrubs die from lack of water. 

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