Tag Archives: California Public Utilities Commission

San Jose Mercury News: Fix CPUC NOW!

4 Feb

Read this story at 


The links below work – click on “MORE: PG&E, OTHER PUBLIC UTILITIES” and get more up-to-date stories regarding the San Bruno investigation and other utility news.

Mercury News editorial: PUC may require Legislature’s intervention

Mercury News Editorial

POSTED:   02/03/2015 03:27:00 PM PST




The California Public Utilities Commission has not come clean on the extent of its improper relationship with PG&E. Not even close.

 The 65,000 emails released last week by the utility it purports to regulate make this painfully clear — and make it all the more important to fully disclose everything that has gone on in the past to assess what to do moving forward.
Perhaps none of the three current PUC members who were involved in regulating PG&E after the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion should remain. To determine that, PUC members should voluntarily release all of their emails to or about PG&E to show the extent of their relationships.

So should former PUC President Michael Peevey, who is under investigation by the attorney general’s office — but we’ve given up expecting him to do the right thing. Same for Gov. Jerry Brown, who continues to defend Peevey despite his unethical conduct.

Fortunately, the Legislature can step in. Lawmakers can remove a commissioner with a two-thirds vote. They should exercise that power on any PUC members who do not release all emails to prove they’re up to the job.
And they should remove Commissioner Michael Florio now.
We called for his resignation in 2014 after emails disclosed he intervened on behalf of PG&E in the debate over allowable pressure for a gas pipeline in San Carlos. Florio warned PG&E that the governor’s office might try to broker a compromise. Then he wrote, “Amazing how I’ve become an apologist for PG&E in just three short years, isn’t it.”It sure was. So are the latest disclosures such as the November 2012 email from Florio to former PG&E Vice President Brian Cherry, who later was fired for inappropriate interactions with the PUC. Florio shows off just how chummy he is with the folks at PG&E by whining to Cherry about being assigned to supervise a PG&E rate hike proposal, writing: “I did NOT ask for this! Fortunately, for all concerned, we have good experienced administrative law judge in Tom Pulsifer. Can’t you protest or something???”

Florio admits to inappropriate conduct but maintains that “any objective review of my voting record at this commission will demonstrate that I have shown no partiality to PG&E or any other regulated utility.” Not really. What did he do to influence what showed up on agendas for a public vote?

In January, new PUC President Michael Picker said he wanted the agency to be more transparent, accessible and responsive to the public. Even though he hasn’t been president for long, releasing his own email interactions with all California utilities would demonstrate the type of leadership that’s been lacking for a decade.

Evidence of improper and unethical conduct continues to ooze out of the PUC, email by email, like seepage from a cracked pipeline. Let’s not wait for an explosion. Fix the agency now. If members can’t prove themselves worthy of public trust, clean house. If the PUC itself or the governor won’t do it, the Legislature needs to step in.

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.

Governor Jerry Brown accepted $50,000 from PG&E for his 2010 gubernatorial campaign, another $25,000 in 2012

23 Oct

NOTE (10/27/14): As far as I can tell, this letter below that I sent to the Enterprise Record two weeks ago has never been published. My guess is, Little didn’t like the way I treated Debbie Presson. Little isn’t a journalist, he’s a corporate shill. He isn’t interested in running a community forum, he’s too busy trying to run the community. Good bye Enterprise Record, I wish I could say “It’s been nice!”, but instead I’ll say, “With friends like you, who needs enemas?”

Election time again, and Dave Little is sitting on the letters section of the newspaper like a dog in a manger. Instead of expanding the letters section at this time, he narrows the passage, only lets in letters that he feels are directly related to the election. So, this letter I sent 10 days ago is still waiting to hit print. I think it’s okay if I run it here, since it will only be in the paper about 24 hours anyway.  I’m afraid people have already forgotten the PG&E rate increase.  

I’d like to see Brown get voted out in two weeks but I know that’s an ice cube’s chance in Hell. So, you might want to write to him and ask him why he accepted that kind of money from PG&E and then appointed their employees to the Public Utilities Commission. Ask him about the communications between his office and PG&E during the San Bruno hearings.

Those commissioners, by the way, make over $100,000 a year – the judge who literally sat on our hearing makes about $112,000 with another $30,000 in benefits. Remind Jerry Brown, the average California taxpayer makes  just a little over $40,000/year. 

The CPUC hearing regarding the PG&E rate “changes” was very enlightening.  Judge Jeanne McKinney explained, PG&E will not see an increase in revenues, instead, they will “change the way revenues are collected.” She spelled it out very clearly –  lower users will pay more,  higher users will pay less. This action was made possible by the state legislature with passage of AB 327. 

Twelve speakers at the 2:00 session pointed out,  the CPUC is supposed to encourage conservation of energy, but this plan encourages higher usage. Worse, as Julian Zener pointed out,  lower users are usually those who can’t afford to use more. The burden of higher rates falls disproportionately on the poor, while the wealthy who can afford to use more electricity will be rewarded with lower rates.  At the same time they are decreasing the CARE discount by 25 percent. 

The CPUC is currently embroiled in a scandal involving inappropriate negotiations with PG&E in the aftermath of the San Bruno explosion. E-mails released by PG&E last week show the governor’s office was also involved.  PG&E gave Governor Jerry Brown $50,000 for his 2010 campaign and another $25,000 for his 2012 campaign to raise sales tax.

We need to change the way the CPUC operates. Currently, the governor fills this board with employees from the utility companies. Please join Chico Taxpayers Association, help change this statewide spoils commission to a network of boards elected and accountable locally. 

Juanita Sumner, Chico Ca

Casey Aplanalp: something is wrong here

20 Oct

Chico Taxpayer Casey Aplanalp has been pretty busy in his day job but pays attention to the issues that matter – thanks Casey for this letter sent to the Enterprise Record:

PG&E tells us to conserve energy. So as an incentive, they’re posing to increase the rates for lower tier energy users and lower rates for top energy users. It’s a slap in the face to those who conserve, and screws people who have gone solar, but makes perfect sense in opposite world.

They hold a Town Hall type of “discussion” and are presumptuous to allow people to speak for 2 minutes, as if we need their permission to speak out. This is their manner of gathering public consent, holding a boring meeting nobody wants to attend.
They hand-picked the PUC judge to preside, who is/was a lawyer for an energy company. Not exactly what we need to see from the PUC. Private companies don’t get to hire their own judges, and the Feds will see if this judge has indeed taken compensation from PG&E.

This reminds me of drought season, when water users got dinged for conserving water.

Something is wrong here.

I also wrote a letter to the ER but of course it’s caught in the election letter jam, we’ll see if it gets printed. I complained about the fact that Jerry Brown takes tens of thousands in campaign contributions from PG&E, then turns around and appoints their employees to the CPUC, turning a deaf ear to such practices as “judge shopping.” The Moonbeam has got to GO! This is one race where I will hold my nose and vote for Neel Kashkarian. He’s bad too, mark my words, I’ll be bitching about him too. But we have to snap the power vacuum grip they’ve got every once in a while, shake things up – that’s our only shot in the state races, shake things up and see what we get. 

Unfortunately if we toss our dice in the city council election all we get are snake eyes.

How do they get away with this every three years?

16 Aug

I’m sitting here in shock over the announcement that Cal Water got 20 of the 38 percent they asked for in a rate hike. And here’s the kicker Girls – retroactive back to January of this year. The CPUC had delayed the decision, so they agreed to make it retroactive. The announcement claimed the average retroactive amount would be $56, just glued on to your next bill. That’s based on the assumption that we all spend the lion’s share of our time at work and school, flushing public toilets and drinking bottled water.  Mine will more likely be over $100 – God I’m a pig. 

I got a comment from John B., reminding me, Cal Water asks for a rate increase about every three years. It’s automatic or something. 

my comment is about the 20% increase in water rates that was just approved, how do they get away with this every 3 years,they ask for raises to build new water tanks,repair/replace infastructure,new office to cut down cost,but when these things are done the cost still stay in place,so if they ask for 500k to build a water tank in there rates they are getting that 500k every 3 years forever.why do we not see a decrease when projects that the money was for are complete maybe a little for upkeep. they have increases in effect from 20yrs ago for completed projects. take out the public in cpuc

He’s right, they make it sound temporary, but they never use the word “sunset,” or give a date. They just use these excuses to perpetually hike our rates to cover their pensions, like I said in my letter to the ER:

Chico Cal Water ratepayers have been wondering about the “WRAM” charge on their bills. WRAM is the “Water Rate Adjustment Mechanism,” by which Cal Water manipulates our rates monthly to cover what Chico manager Pete Bonacich calls “operating expenses.”

Contacted by Action News 24, Mr. Bonacich described “operating expenses”. “We still have to have people go out and read our meters, we still have to have people go out and check our well sites, and maintain our pumps and things like that.”

Like Chico Police, Butte Vectors, CARD and other public and quasi-public employees, Cal Water employees get defined benefits, for which they pay zero to nine percent. They expect us to pay the rest. The Chico water rate increase notice I received in my bill included “$556,000 to retain the same level of employee health care, pensions, and retiree health care benefits for General Office personnel…” and another $423,000 for field workers’ benefits, for one year, but only “$163,000 for water infrastructure improvements between 2013 and 2016.”

We are faced with a wave of tax and rate increase proposals to pay for pensions for workers who pay little to nothing for 70 to 90 percent of their highest year’s pay, available as early as age 50. Please join Chico Taxpayers Association in protesting unsustainable compensation. Protests from Chico ratepayers have resulted in a decrease in the water rate increase proposal which is currently before the CPUC – together we can and do make a difference.

I meant that about making a difference. They wanted a 38 percent rate hike, and while I’m sure they asked for more than they really wanted, I’m also pretty sure they would have got that 38 and liked it plenty if we hadn’t squawked about it.

I won’t give Chico much credit, Marysville and Lucerne and some other towns made a lot more noise. We owe them a lot of thanks. Those letters got one CPUC commissioner to at least set it aside, he asked for more comments from ratepayers. I’m guessing if we’d given him more, we might have got a better shake than 20. Oh well. 

John says, “take out the public in cpuc [California Public Utilities Commission]…”  This has already been accomplished – our governors, from Gray Davis on to Jerry Brown II have built a commission out of former employees of the utility giants. The current president of the CPUC, Michael Peevey, once headed Edison South and other power companies. 

Screaming bloody murder about this stuff is good, but we have to start voting for some new people. We have to start in our local elections, get rid of these union plants. 



Butte Supers write another protest letter over Cal Water rate hike – the leaders are leading, now the people need to follow

7 Apr

I’m sorry I haven’t posted this sooner – the Butte County Board of Supervisors has sent another protest letter over Cal Water’s proposed rate hike. 

March 25, 2014 

Ms. Karen Miller
Public Advisor, California Public Utilities Commission
505 Van Ness Avenue, Room 2103
San Francisco, California 94102
RE: California Water Service Company General Rate Case
Dear Ms. Miller:
On behalf of the Butte County Board of Supervisors, I am writing to express concern over the proposed increase
filed by California Water Service Company (Cal Water). Butte County is served by two Cal Water service districts,
Chico and Oroville, with customers of each facing proposed increases of more than 26%. The Office of Ratepayer
Advocates proposed alternate rate increases of 7.2% for Chico and 16.1% for Oroville in March of last year, but
those rates are not reflected in the proposed rate case settlement.
The unemployment rate in Butte County at the end of January, 2014 was 10.0%. Although that rate has improved in
the past year, it continues to exceed that of the State of California and the United States as a whole. New home
construction may be on the rise throughout the rest of the State but that trend has not extended to Butte County.
While our local economy is finally showing some signs of improvement, it remains extremely vulnerable to events
affecting local spending and consumer prices. Our community can ill afford the negative long-term impacts of the
proposed Cal Water rate increases.
It is our hope that the Public Utilities Commission will assist the thousands of Butte County citizens and businesses
facing economic hardship by adopting more reasonable and affordable rates in the Chico and Oroville Water Service
Districts served by Cal Water.
Thank you for your consideration.
Doug Teeter, Chair
Butte County Board of Supervisors
cc: Members, Butte County Board of Supervisors
The Honorable Brian Dahle, Member of California State Assembly
The Honorable Dan Logue, Member of California State Assembly
The Honorable Jim Nielsen, Member of California State Senate
Paul Yoder, Strategic Local Government Services, LLC
Joe Como, Office of Ratepayer Advocates

The other good news is, while the decision was supposed to be made in January and we might already be paying that 38 percent proposed increase, the commission is still out. I’m guessing, the various protests have been getting through, and these commissioners and their hangers-on have realized they are suddenly under scrutiny. Reading up at Marysville for Reasonable Water Rates’ Facebook page


I understand the proposal has so far been whittled down to 10 percent – WOW! – but the source, a spokesman from Cal Water, warns that the commission “ can raise it to whatever amount they determine that Cal Water needs/and or deserves. ”  We have it in cyber ink –  the CPUC does what’s good for Cal Water! “needs and/or deserves“? We need to keep up the pressure.

I wish people would write to the supervisors and thank them for joining the protest. You can find their e-mail addresses here


A friend of mine who lives here in Chico reports that her homeowner’s association has raised dues because of the pending increase. “People had no clue,” she said. Yes, it takes time to get the information out. If you’re reading this and you care, write a letter to the Enterprise Record, News and Review, Oroville Mercury Register, or some other local newspaper. Remind your neighbors, this increase is mainly for pensions and benefits. Only $165,000 for infrastructure, over three years, but almost a million for pensions and benefits. Do the math on your bills, tell people how much your bill will go up. Tell people how much you’ve spent fixing your plumbing, buying water-conserving fixtures and appliances,  how you’ve changed your lifestyle to conserve, and  been rewarded with rate increase after rate increase. Remind them, we don’t have a water shortage, we have too many developers in Southern California demanding our water. 

My friend’s comment, and the inaction of the commission on the rate case have convinced me that people need to know, and we still have time to tell them. 

From Marysville for Reasonable Water Rates: We are NOT going away. We want change.

10 Feb

“Whiskey is for drinking; Water is for fighting over” ~
This quote has been attributed to 
Mark Twain 

We have a lot of new information to share. Please share this post on your facebook site and with friends and family.

Several weeks ago a group of us from Marysville met with other cities to form a coalition. We have said many times that there is power and strength in numbers. All of us have been fighting alone. So forming an alliance, only makes sense. The group represents cities served by one of the BIG 3 private for-profit water companies in California: Golden State; Cal American; and California Water Service. Everyone has the same stories and issues: escalating water rates!! The coalition advocates for fair and reasonable water rates. 

It is pretty obvious that we will never change the way that the BIG 3 do business. But we can lobby for change at CPUC. We can and will put pressure on local and state elected officials. CPUC appears to be rife with conflict of interest between its role as a State agency that oversees the private utility companies and its role as a rate setter for private utilities. The current system is broken!! It is working for the private water companies, but NOT for the ratepayers. There is no protection for the ratepayers of the private water companies. 

The coalition of cities is growing. A website that will be representative of all cities that join the coalition will soon be up and running. We will keep you posted. 

Yesterday several members of the coalition attended an Assembly Committee meeting on Utilities and Commerce in Sacramento. The topic of the meeting was “Keeping Water Rates Affordable”. Denise Rushing (Supervisor in Lucerne) gave a presentation about their issues with rates (Cal Water). Kudos to Supervisor Rushing for standing up and speaking out for those who elected her. Bill Simmons (Marysville) and Craig Bach (Lucerne) also spoke. They talked about escalating water rates; affordability; WRAM surcharges etc. Apparently Arizona does not have the issue that we have. The PUC in Arizona elects their commissioners. They are not appointed. They are accountable to the people. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

Thank you to Bill Simmons and Craig Bach for speaking out. We appreciate you!!!

Chris Pedigo is scheduled to be interviewed by Channel 13-Sacramento this evening. He will address all of the issues above. Thank you Councilman Pedigo!! 

Please be sure to share this update. It is encouraging to see how many cities are happy to jump on board with the coalition. We will continue to meet; to network; to lobby and share resources. 
We will be back soon with another update. There is much more going on. 

Spring and summer is just around the corner. More brown lawns. More brown parks. Higher WRAM charges. Higher water charges!! 

We are NOT going away. We want change.

NOTE:  Check out the new website