Utility rates on the rise – good news, our county supervisors may be riding to the rescue

24 Aug

Today we got our PG&E bill. Do you read your PG&E bill?  It’s more interesting than your cereal box, certainly, but oftentimes raises more questions than it answers. 

I save my bills, partly to collect my Utility Tax Rebate, but mostly because that’s the only way a person would know how PG&E manipulates the rates. I know, but I still don’t understand. It’s complicated.

I don’t have to tell you that, I mean, you read your bills. Right?

I compared this most recent bill with the bill from the same period in 2014.  They’ve drastically raised Baseline and Tier quantities (the amounts you are allowed to use) while at the same time raising rates, so it’s hard to tell where it all settles.  I see my family used 150 less kilowatt hours than this same period last year – wow, good for us! But, here’s the thing –  that’s 150 kwh at Tier 4 (.33/kwh) – that would have cost me another $49.50 if I actually used it. So, I figure, I shaved that much off my usage, I’d see a significant difference in the total amount due.  But, my electric charge for this period is only $3 less than that same period last year, when I used 150 kwh more.

 I just don’t get that.

Hey, I finally did get  that Cal Water rate increase insert that had been casually left out of my latest water bill. If you didn’t get that insert, which was supposed to explain the latest rate increase proposal and tell you how you could participate in the CPUC decision, please call Cal Water Customer Service Manager Renee Thatford, at (530) 893-6380 and ask her to send you one. 

Although, the insert does not tell us everything Cal Water asked for in their proposal.  In the very defensive insert, Cal Water insists they are only trying to “ensure that water rates accurately reflect the cost of providing water service,” and that consolidation with the Marysville, Oroville, and Willows districts will “improve affordability“, but they don’t say, what costs or whose affordability.  What they are leaving out is their annual pension costs, and also that they were denied their last rate increases in some districts because they were too onerous for the ratepayers to bear. Now Cal Water is trying to hide costs for those districts in Chico!

And lastly, they say they will, ” develop administrative efficiencies.”  I will speculate that means, more money for salaries, benefits and pensions. Maybe somebody from Cal Water has a better explanation, I’ll be glad to run it.

“Reasons for Increase” 

  • 3.5% of the increase is for projected water supply costs
  • 96.5% of the increase is for water infrastructure improvements

I don’t understand that 3.5% “projected water supply costs” – we have our own water here, they should give us more itemization there. And then, notice how they’ve lost the “develop administrative efficiencies” thing already and gone straight to “water infrastructure improvements” – they need to itemize this stuff. 

And there’s a lot more that’s not in this notice. You can read the whole proposal at Cal Water’s office on MLK Parkway here in Chico, or you can send a written request for a paper copy to their San Jose Office. 

Be sure to read that carefully – the Office of the Ratepayer Advocate has already filed a formal protest of this action based on the following complaint, including these “Requests not included in the Proposed Application”.  


ORA is still reviewing Cal Water’s Application, but has identified several issues that it intends to review and potentially address during this proceeding.

A. Requests not Included in the Proposed Application Should be Stricken

The application includes multiple requests that were not included in the proposed application. The Rate Case Plan states “[t]he application shall conform to the content of the PA (Proposed Application), as approved by ORA.”1 Pages 16-17 of the General

Report of California Water Service (dated July 2015) include the following new requests not included in the Proposed Application:

o Special Request: Eliminating 10% Cap on WRAM Amortization

o Special Request: Continued Authorization for Balanced Payment Plan

o Special Request: Permanent Credit Card Program

o Special Request: Temporary Metered Service Tariff

o Special Request: Public and Private Fire Protection Tariffs

o Special Request: Rule 15 Main Extensions Clarifications

o Eight Additional items were added to the Special Request regarding Memorandum and Balancing Accounts

As ORA was not given opportunity to perform a deficiency review on these requests, and these requests do not conform to the content of the Proposed Application as approved by ORA, they are outside of the scope of this application and should be stricken.

Maureen Kirk has got the county board of supervisors to support a formal protest of this action too. For more information, write to Maureen Kirk, 3rd District Supervisor, at mkirk@buttecounty.net, and ask her how you can  help. 


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