Lou Binninger: CPUC and utility companies “sleep together” – “there is no protection for the consumer”

7 Jan

I enjoy reading the Territorial Dispatch out of Marysville, a very good local weekly with a local staff. Writer Lou Binninger is always worth a read. Here he takes on the California Public Utilities Commission over inappropriate favoritism toward Cal Water and other for-profit water companies.

You can also catch Lou on 1410 am, KMYC, Saturday mornings from 9am to noon:


by Lou Binninger, for the Territorial Dispatch

Obamacare shaman Jonathan Gruber said he purposely disguised the intent and impact of the national health insurance scam to ‘deceive stupid voters.’ He was right and wrong. Citizens trusted the word of an institution they once considered trustworthy, but now defrauds them. Since Gruber knew he was a liar he despised his victims as weak. Their stupidity was in trusting those who rule over them.

Gruber’s technique was neither novel nor original. In 2014, Marysville resident Connie Walczak found this out the hard way.

She filed a ratepayer complaint against California Water Service with the CPUC (California Public Utility Commission). Cal Water had raised rates 121% in 10 years. The last increase in 2011 was 55.3% and now they were requesting the CPUC grant another 47% hike.

Prior to resorting to a formal complaint, in 2013 Walczak called and wrote the CPUC multiple times with no response. It was clear that the state commission created a complaint process that would forbid most citizens to survive its legal gauntlet. Complaints could not be submitted on line but had to be handwritten. The procedures were akin to filing a 1040 long form in a foreign language. It gets worse.

Cal Water attorney Natalie Wales violated legal procedures by serving notices and documents to listed Marysville complainants late or not at all. The judge excused the attorney’s miscues by email but would not return Walczak’s emails protesting his double standard.

The CPUC mission statement says it “serves the public interest by protecting consumers and ensuring the provision of safe, reliable utility service and infrastructure at reasonable rates, with a commitment to environmental enhancement and a healthy California economy.” Walczak found this statement absurd and the utility-oversight system a mirage.

Recently, PG and E emails surfaced between the company and former CPUC President Michael Peevey’s office revealing CPUC’s collusion with PG and E to obstruct the investigation / lawsuit involving the 2010 San Bruno gas line explosion. The disaster killed 8, injured 58 and destroyed 38 homes. Federal investigators found fault with PG&E for the incident but blamed the CPUC for not holding the utility accountable to replace gas lines that they requested rate increases to fund. Investigators said the CPUC “placed blind trust in operators.”

PG&E fired Vice President Brian Cherry, his boss Tom Bottorff and another vice president after e-mails showed Cherry had lobbied Peevey’s chief of staff Carol Brown to help appoint a preferred administrative law judge to a rate case. Cherry’s choice was eventually given the $1.3 billion case, but it was reassigned after PG&E released the judge-shopping emails.


CPUC’s Carol Brown, who told PG&E’s Cherry she would try to help him, resigned. Federal prosecutors are investigating the e-mails.


Emails also showed CPUC’s Peevey soliciting contributions from PG&E. Peevey leaned on PG&E to contribute at least $1 million to oppose a ballot measure that would put a hold on a California law limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Peevey asked PG&E to contribute $100,000 to help fund a Centennial Anniversary celebration for the CPUC, and Peevey appeared to link the request to a PG&E rate-setting case before the commission.


Consumer-oriented Loretta Lynch, whom Gov. Gray Davis replaced with Peevey as President in 2002, says that the state regulators no longer regulate. The real business of resolving rates unofficially takes place on cruises, on junkets to Hong Kong, over cocktails and at industry sponsored seminars. Lynch claims utilities regularly ‘doctor’ their documents to support rate increases. Testimony under oath about costs etc. is a thing of the past according to Ms. Lynch.


Walczak’s rate complaint was rejected, but she was right about the CPUC and the Cal Waters of the world. They sleep together. Walczak now refers to the state agency as the California Utility Commission (CUC). It exists to benefit monopolies. There is no consumer protection.

6 Responses to “Lou Binninger: CPUC and utility companies “sleep together” – “there is no protection for the consumer””

  1. jb January 7, 2015 at 10:34 am #

    Have look at the Opinion page of today’s E-R. “California Focus,” Thomas Elias’ column is regarding communities getting out from under the corrupt PG&E thumb. I wish our local “officials” would work on such sensible issues, instead of their political machinations.

    • Juanita Sumner January 7, 2015 at 6:49 pm #

      thanks for the tip jb, I’ll give that a read! I agree that it is our local government’s job to protect the consumer from overbearing entities like PG&E. But instead they’re “in bed” with the utility companies too – a couple of years ago PG&E gave the city about $400,000 for “sustainability”. Ann Schwab’s Sustainability Task Force member Scott McNall from Chico State got about $10,000 of that grant, and Jon Stallman from Butte College got quite a bit more for programs they ran out of the Task Force, including the RECO program. The rest of the grant went to the city for salaries and pensions.

      Here’s the link to that Elias piece:


  2. bob January 10, 2015 at 2:47 pm #

    Me and Bob have been rubbing salt in our bag ban wound.

    Every time I go to the store I get salt rubbed into my wound having to hassle with these stupid bags.
    But at least I have the memory of the outraged guy in the store who said, “To hell with Ann Schwab. To Hell with Andy Holcombe.” That was almost as good as the Fire Grundler mailer and that picture. (Did you ever make a shirt of it?)

    Guess what? Dollar Tree is still giving people plastic bags. I asked the cashier about that and she said for them they are not outlawed. But you go to Target or Walmart and they aren’t allowed.

    How stupid is that? Just shows you what an idiotic law it is.

    And Melissa Dogtree lecturing us in the Snooze and Review about how this is no big deal and you must be some knuckle dragging idiot if you don’t like it.

    She’s so ecologically conscientious, isn’t she?

    Well, if that’s the case why doesn’t she do something about those free papers that you see stacked high at all the stores? If paper bags are bad and we must be charged 10 cents each plus tax to discourage their use why does Melissa’s rag get a free pass?

    How about we outlaw the Snooze and Review paper version and all those other free trash papers? If you can read them online why do we need them on paper?

    You can bet she would never go for that. Why? Because she is a typical liberal hypocrite. If it threatens her livelihood she will scream like a stuck pig but when something idiotic threatens other people’s…well, just suck it up.

    From what I can tell we are stuck with the bag ban regardless of what happens at the state level. The CONservatives on the city council have no interest in getting rid of it or that idiotic STFU.

    BTW, here’s a great interview on what a scam “global warming” is and we are going to pay through the nose for this scam thanks to useful idiots like those on the STFU.


    • Juanita Sumner January 11, 2015 at 7:59 am #

      I hear you – even after I told my husband to stop bringing it up, it just comes up by itself. A trip to Safeway yesterday and yeah, there it was, a woman questioning about the bags, and then telling the bagger to take her stuff out and put it in the cart, she was not willing to pay for a bag. Twice we’ve sat at Safeway and watched a bagger unload groceries after a customer questioned the charge. The first guy had a bunch of stuff, we just had to stand there.

      Rub rub.

      Thanks for reminding me about the Gruendl picture – I found iron-on sheets, 12 for about 6 bucks, online. I just have to sit down with my amazon.com gift certificate and make that purchase.

      I did try to get the STF to act on the Market Value Place that hits mailboxes all over town every Wednesday – city taskmaster Linda Herman posted the “opt-out” information on the city website, but that was it. I sure got that rag out of my mailbox, and I get searches for that opt-out information almost daily. About a year ago I e-mailed jjurdana@chicoer.com just to see if she’s a real person and still working to help people opt out – she sent me a cheerful reply, reminding me all people have to do to get that pile of dead trees out of their mailbox is e-mail her! That was a small but sweet victory for me, if you haven’t done that yet, give it a rip and let me know how it goes. Be nice to Jenny, she’s just the piano player.

      don’t give up on the bag ban – the council might roll over to a petition if the state ban is lifted. Otherwise, we will mount a campaign to take shopping to towns with no bag ban, like every town within 50 miles.

      I tried to listen to Monckton, but you know, I’m the choir, I already know what he’s saying, and then some. I got distracted by an article about Jamie Lee Curtis – she’s my scream queen. Whenever I get really mad I picture Jamie Lee screaming, calms me down every time.

  3. Hooton99 January 19, 2015 at 12:13 pm #

    Note that when Tom Bottorff was “fired,” he got a $1.1M severance package for a job well done!

    • Juanita Sumner January 20, 2015 at 6:42 am #

      thanks for the info, I’ll post a blog about it!

      I really appreciate tips, I would have missed this story.

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