Still time to fight the water rate increase – DRA recommends cutting proposed hike in half

11 Nov

I have not been following the Cal Water rate increase lately – frankly, from my stats, I get the sickening feeling that nobody else in Chico is paying attention either.  Neither of the papers are covering this, nor has the city council discussed it. Let’s face it – a rate hike is good for the city of Chico, because it will mean increased Utility Tax revenues, and both newspapers seems to be nothing but propaganda rags for the city of Chico these days, so don’t expect them to make any waves.

Just in case you’re still asleep, wrap those warm feet around this – Cal Water wants to raise your bill by almost 40 percent. That’s alot, especially if you’re still in the habit of watering anything besides your shower and toilet.

 And here’s the real sticker – they try to tell us it’s for infrastructure, but I have the legal notice received in my billing – over half the increase will go to employee pensions and benefits. Furthermore, what they apparently didn’t mention in those notices was, the stockholders were going to get a nice little slice too.  

This should feel familiar to you – remember the time that big kid came out from behind that tree on the way to school, punched you real hard in the guts and said, “Gimmee your lunch money!” Well, this is more of the same.

Disgusted ratepayers in Marysville formed a group – “Marysville for Reasonable Water Rates” – check out the latest news on their Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Marysville-For-Reasonable-Water-Rates/176321489194208

They made a formal complaint to the California Public Utilities Commission, which was more than I could get out of the lobsters around here. This resulted in a hearing with the Department of Ratepayer Assistance, which suggested their requested hike be cut in half.  Cal Water came back with a proposal to increase the discount for their Low Income Rate Assistance program, but those who don’t qualify for LIRA will pay more to make up for that increase.  

Something that keeps making me madder and madder is why they say they need the increase – because we’ve been using less water. We’re not only conserving already, but we’ve reacted to the increases they’ve already shoved up our asses. I’ve watched my bill at  this house increase from an $8 service charge to $14. I’ve watched the price of a ccf go from about 50 cents to a dollar. In Marysville and Oroville they’re paying over a dollar for tier one.  This has nothing to do with the “cost” of providing water. It has everything to do with enriching management and shareholders. While you let your lawn die, some guy in Arizona is receiving a check made up of your money. 

The issue still needs to go before a panel at the CPUC, sometime in “early 2014.” Below I’ve pasted a news release from Cal Water – don’t slip in the bullshit, and you can get the information you need. Cal Water is not telling us below how much of the increase is going into employee benefits and pension, but they do suggest “the establishment of a health care balancing account that will track changes in employee health care costs and provide for the sharing of these cost changes between customers and shareholders during the rate case cycle. The parties believe the health care balancing account provides protection to the company and its customers due to the uncertainties arising from continuing changes in medical costs and insurance nationally, while providing an incentive to actively manage these costs downward.”  They’re offering to show us what they spend, so we can bitch about it and “incentivize” them to cut costs? How? By chasing after the Cal Water trucks, barking like a dog? “Hey, you been gaining too much weight lately! And you need to quit smoking, I saw that cigarette!” 

No, we don’t want to pay for that stuff, stop it. And it’s not really for the meter readers or the trench diggers, it’s for the soft-handed management types, like Mike Pembroke.  We need to contact the CPUC, now.  Familiarize yourselves with this page on the CPUC website:

http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/puc/aboutus/Divisions/CSID/Public+Advisor/

There is a lot of information here and contact information. Be sure to identify yourself and where you live. Tell them how the rate hike will affect you, and that your answer is going to be, USE LESS WATER.

 

Settlement Agreement Reached in California Water Service Company’s General Rate Case

SAN JOSE, CA–(Marketwired – Oct 30, 2013) – California Water Service Company (Cal Water), the largest subsidiary of California Water Service Group (NYSE: CWT), announced today that it has entered into a settlement agreement with the California Public Utilities Commission’s Office of Ratepayer Advocates (ORA) and other parties to its 2012 General Rate Case. The Commission may or may not adopt the settlement agreement as proposed by the parties.

If the settlement agreement is approved as proposed, Cal Water would be authorized to invest $447 million in districts throughout California over the three-year period (2013 – 2015) in order to provide a safe and reliable water supply to its customers. Included in the $447 million in water system infrastructure improvements is $126 million that would be recovered through the Commission’s advice letter procedure upon completion of qualified projects. Under the terms of the settlement, the Company would be authorized to increase gross revenue by approximately $45 million in 2014, $10 million in 2015, $10 million in 2016, and up to $19 million upon completion and approval of the company’s advice letter projects.

Addressing affordability, the settlement agreement provides for an increase in the discount provided to qualified low-income customers as part of its Low Income Rate Assistance program throughout Cal Water’s service areas in California, and an increase in the Rate Support Fund assistance to customers who reside in high-cost service areas.

Another provision of the settlement is the establishment of a health care balancing account that will track changes in employee health care costs and provide for the sharing of these cost changes between customers and shareholders during the rate case cycle. The parties believe the health care balancing account provides protection to the company and its customers due to the uncertainties arising from continuing changes in medical costs and insurance nationally, while providing an incentive to actively manage these costs downward.

The Commission is expected to issue a final decision on the case in early 2014. Additional information about the settlement agreement may be found on the Commission’s web site at www.cpuc.ca.gov.

California Water Service Group is the parent company of California Water Service Company, Washington Water Service Company, New Mexico Water Service Company, Hawaii Water Service Company, Inc., CWS Utility Services, and HWS Utility Services. Together these companies provide regulated and non-regulated water service to nearly 2 million people in California, Washington, New Mexico, and Hawaii. California Water Service Group’s common stock trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “CWT.” Additional information is available on our website at www.calwatergroup.com.

This news release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning established by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (“Act”). The forward-looking statements are intended to qualify under provisions of the federal securities laws for “safe harbor” treatment established by the Act. Forward-looking statements are based on currently available information, expectations, estimates, assumptions and projections, and management’s judgment about the Company, the water utility industry and general economic conditions. Such words as would, expects, intends, plans, believes, estimates, assumes, anticipates, projects, predicts, forecasts or variations of such words or similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements. The forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance. They are subject to uncertainty and changes in circumstances. Actual results may vary materially from what is contained in a forward-looking statement. Factors that may cause a result different than expected or anticipated include, but are not limited to: governmental and regulatory commissions’ decisions; changes in regulatory commissions’ policies and procedures; the timeliness of regulatory commissions’ actions concerning rate relief; new legislation; electric power interruptions; increases in suppliers’ prices and the availability of supplies including water and power; fluctuations in interest rates; changes in environmental compliance and water quality requirements; acquisitions and our ability to successfully integrate acquired companies; the ability to successfully implement business plans; changes in customer water use patterns; the impact of weather on water sales and operating results; access to sufficient capital on satisfactory terms; civil disturbances or terrorist threats or acts, or apprehension about the possible future occurrences of acts of this type; the involvement of the United States in war or other hostilities; restrictive covenants in or changes to the credit ratings on our current or future debt that could increase our financing costs or affect our ability to borrow, make payments on debt or pay dividends; and, other risks and unforeseen events. When considering forward-looking statements, you should keep in mind the cautionary statements included in this paragraph, as well as the annual 10-K, Quarterly 10-Q, and other reports filed from time-to-time with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The Company assumes no obligation to provide public updates of forward-looking statements.

1720 North First Street
San Jose, CA 95112-4598

Contact:
Tom Smegal
(408) 367-8200
(analysts)

Shannon Dean
(310) 257-1435
(media)

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