Tag Archives: CPUC president Michael Peevey

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:

http://kmycradio.com/

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.