Tag Archives: Oroville for Reasonable Water Rates

Good news for Marysville – CPUC judge recommends lower rate hike for them, but still no word for Chico

26 Jul

It really makes me frustrated that the local media isn’t covering the Cal Water rate increase. Here’s a story from the Marysville Appeal Democrat, regarding the Marysville rate case, which is separate from the Chico rate case. I have no news on the Chico rate case. When I asked David Little if he could find out more information on this rate increase he responded, “I don’t know if we’re doing anything on Cal Water?” [sic]  

http://www.appeal-democrat.com/news/puc-to-consider-cal-water-rate-hike/article_4406288a-12f1-11e4-9d88-001a4bcf6878.html

PUC to consider Cal Water rate hike

Posted: Thursday, July 24, 2014 12:08 am

By Eric Vodden/evodden@appealdemocrat.com

 
An administrative law judge issued a proposed decision this week that keeps intact a California Water Service Co. three-year rate increase in Marysville.Judge Robert Mason’s decision reflects a settlement agreement between Cal Water and the state Office of Ratepayer Advocates calling for a 10.16 percent rate hike this year.

 The 93-plus page decision also follows settlement agreement recommendations of inflationary rate increases in Marysville of from 1 percent to 5 percent in 2015 and 2016.

The decision, which addresses proposed rate hikes in water systems operated by Cal Water throughout the state, must still be considered by the state Public Utilities Commission. The commission will take up the proposed increase on Aug. 14.

Cal Water spokesman Justin Skarb said if the PUC adopts the agreement, new water utility rates will become effective a few days later. The company has said it needs the increase to keep up with increased costs and state-mandated capital improvements.

Under the proposed decision, a typical residential customer in Marysville using about 9,724 gallons of water per month will have charges totaling about $43.65, up from $39.36.

The increase, stemming from a company’s 2012 application, was initially expected to be completed in time to be imposed last Jan. 1. Since it wasn’t, customers will see a surcharge on their bills to reflect the “under-collection of revenue” since Jan. 1, Skarb said.

“To lessen the impact on customers, the surcharge will be spread out over a period of 12 months, and is likely to be less than 25 cents per unit of water used by customers,” Skarb said in a statement. “Those figures could change, however, if the commission does not adopt the proposed decision, or otherwise modifies it.”

The settlement agreement between Cal Water and the state Office of Ratepayer Advocates last November effectively ended a public campaign in Marysville by residents opposed to the hike. Yuba County supervisors, the Marysville Joint Unified School District and the Marysville City Council also opposed the increase.

The 10.16 percent increase for 2014 is below the 14.1 percent increase recommended by the Office of Ratepayer Advocates. It was believed the increase would fall somewhere between the 34.8 percent Cal Water was asking and what Ratepayer Advocates was recommending.

The increase also includes funds needed for the $2 million relocation of water mains along portions of Highways 20 and 70 to accommodate Caltrans’ ongoing roadway project.

CONTACT Eric Vodden at 749-4769.

I think Marysville got a good decision because they made a very loud protest, as did Oroville. They were actually named on the documents as a “party,” and they got regular updates on the case from the CPUC. I don’t even know how to register myself as a “party.” When I tried to talk to the folks in Sacramento, they told me that if I wanted to be taken seriously and be heard at all by the commissioners (or even their receptionists),  I’d have to drive to San Francisco to attend meetings, pay out of my own pocket to stay overnight because the meetings went on over days, sometimes over the weekend. Otherwise I could just sit home and wait for the rate increase notice, retroactive to January 2014, in my bill.  I had no posse behind me, no group willing to make phone calls, spend hours searching and networking for information, attend meetings or help to write or sign letters. 

Chico has been pretty limp-wristed here. There was a big hoo-rah in the beginning, back in March 2013, when a packed room of pissed off jerks greeted the CPUC representative who monitored the hearing. Oh yeah, you guys gave little Darwin a real pants-ful. And then you folded up and went home and hung your testicles on the wall next to your Mickey Mouse badge and cap gun.

Just lately I’ve seen a letter about WRAM – well, how do you do? Let’s get together and write a formal, group letter to the CPUC before they make their final decision. I’m willing to book the library room to work on something, let me know if you’re interested. 

If we don’t make some kind of noise, we might actually get the 38 percent increase Cal Water proposed to begin with. Cal Water rep Justin Skarb acts as though Cal Water is being shorted here, that we’re just getting oodles of free water. We have to tell the CPUC about the notice we got – read here – about $1.5 million just for salaries, pensions, and benefits, and another $395,000 for “quality employees“, whatever the hell that means:

Cal Water is proposing this change in rates due to  the following factors:

  • Cal Water is requesting $556,000 to retain the same level of employee health care, pensions, and retiree health care benefits for General Office personnel, the costs of which have increased faster than inflation.
  • Cal Water is requesting $423,000 to retain for district personnel the same level of employee benefits described above
  • Cal Water is requesting $415,000 for the allocation of General Office operation expenses
  • Cal Water is requesting $395,000 to retain quality employees in the district
  • Cal Water is requesting $163,000 for water infrastructure improvements between 2013 and 2016

 

Remember, this is a proposal, the CPUC still needs to make a decision. 

Right now we actually have a chance to get our legislators to listen to us about water rate increase, WRAM – please write an e-mail to Assemblyman Rendon

30 Jan

I have joined efforts with Marysville and Oroville for Reasonable Water Rates, along with people from other nearby towns that are being hit with water rate increases, to get the word out to other folks up and down the state – we don’t have to take this TAKING laying down. Cal Water and other private providers will tell you they need the money to serve us!  Take one of these right now!

My mom gave me these.

My mom gave me these. She had a built-in Bullshit Detector, but figured I might need a supplement.

Here, Cal Water is requesting a 38 percent rate increase to cover their “operating costs”. My notice said:

Cal Water is proposing this change in rates due to  the following factors:

  • Cal Water is requesting $556,000 to retain the same level of employee health care, pensions, and retiree health care benefits for General Office personnel, the costs of which have increased faster than inflation.
  • Cal Water is requesting $423,000 to retain for district personnel the same level of employee benefits described above
  • Cal Water is requesting $415,000 for the allocation of General Office operation expenses
  • Cal Water is requesting $395,000 to retain quality employees in the district
  • Cal Water is requesting $163,000 for water infrastructure improvements between 2013 and 2016

Another problem with our water billing is WRAM – the Water Rate Adjustment Mechanism. This allows Cal Water and other private water companies to manipulate our rates monthly without hearings or CPUC approval.  Municipal water companies do not have WRAM. Look at your bills, it’s there.

So, I have been trying to write to papers around the state, telling people what we’re doing – write to Assemblyman Anthony Rendon at Assemblymember.Rendon@asm.ca.gov  

This is not a lost effort.  Mr. Rendon’s staff has responded to other writers that there will be a hearing regarding water rates and how they affect the ratepayers at the state capital on February 3, 3pm, Room 437. I know that’s short notice, but you can still e-mail Rendon and tell you him you’re concerned about how water rates will affect your life.  At least you know it’s something they’re discussing, your comments will have a better chance of having some effect. Be short and to the point, hopefully he will have a lot of e-mails on this subject.

I always feel weird writing to papers in other towns, but what the heck – it’s one of the only ways to network with the more general public. Sure you could look for other groups – that’s called, “preaching to the choir,” Hon. I prefer to launch myself out there, God(dess) save me, and see what I can find. Sometimes I find a closed door, and a long dark walk home. Other times I find somebody – like the other day at the garbage meeting – who says, “Wow, I have been trying to find out how to get in touch with you!”  Or, “Hey, that pisses me off too!” Zowie! That really turns my wheels.

I was reading through an online paper in the little town of Downey California, the Downey Patriot. I came across this letter, posted January 23.

Dear Editor:
On early morning walks it’s interesting to observe how we irrigate our property.
Sometimes sprinkler heads are broken and water gushes up like Old Faithful and then cascades into the gutter, or sprinkler heads are directing water onto sidewalks and streets. We, including this writer, waste our precious supply of fresh water big time. We think it’s an infinite supply, that it never will be depleted, that it will always be there for us. Not true. We constantly strive for a beautiful lawn in our semiarid, desert-like environment.
Some scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography predict a 50 percent probability that Lake Mead will be completely dry by 2021 because of climate change, unsustainable overuse of the Colorado River and population increase. Lake Mead, a huge reservoir of Colorado River water supplying Arizona, Nevada, California and Northern Mexico is dropping to a level not seen since it was first being filled in the 1930s.
We have been in an 11-year ongoing drought. Many of our large water reservoirs are down 50 percent or more. Look at hills that haven’t burned and notice how brown they are. That is how Southern California would look in its natural state without large amounts of imported water.
We continue sticking our heads in the sand by not immediately taking steps to radically save our diminishing water supply. This writer and his family have spent many happy days on Lake Powell, Mead, Mohave and Lake Havasu boating, swimming, fishing, skiing and camping. It’s amazing to watch the mighty Colorado flow by and know how vital it is for those of us who live in the Western U.S.
It is amazing to see all the water behind these giant dams and now some experts believe that in the future, lack of water may make it necessary to close either Boulder Dam or Glen Canyon Dam.
Byron Dillon
Downey

Zowie! I had to answer Mr. Dillon.

 I read Bryon Dillon’s letter (Jan 23) and, like him, I am concerned about our water supply. Conservation seems obvious, but private water companies are undermining our conservation efforts with a process in our water bills by which we are essentially penalized for saving water. It’s called WRAM – “Water Rate Adjustment Mechanism” – and you will find it on your private company water bill.
 

I live in the Northern California town of Chico. I have a group of friends, Chico Taxpayers Association, who have been networking with a growing number of people in Butte, Sutter, Lake and Glenn Counties who are concerned about the way private water companies are billing consumers.   

 

WRAM comes into your bill when your water usage falls below what your private provider determines is necessary to cover their expenses for that month. Over the past year this has added anywhere from $8 to $20 to my monthly bill, while I’ve been replacing plumbing and killing sections of landscaping.

 

Here in Chico, Cal Water’s “expenses” included over $1.7 million to provide fully-paid pensions and health benefits, cover “general office operation expenses” and new salaries, but only $163,000 for infrastructural maintenance. WRAM allows them to manipulate rates at will, monthly, without any public hearing or CPUC process.

 

My friends and I are asking legislators to suspend WRAM for full investigation. You can contact me at https://chicotaxpayers.com/  You can also contact Assemblyman Anthony Rendon,  Assemblymember.Rendon@asm.ca.gov, who sits on the committee that oversees water issues, and ask him to call for the suspension of WRAM.  

I’m hoping the Patriot will run my letter, and that at least some readers will either contact Rendon or come on over to our website and get more information. I work incrementally. Every little contact breeds other little contacts, until an idea gets out there to the general public. I think that’s the way to make a difference, I hope you will join me and give a few minutes of your time to this effort.

Butte County Supervisors discuss discussing Cal Water rate hike – pencil it in for December 10

18 Nov

We’re really lucky to live in an area where you can still reach out and touch your elected officials, at least figuratively.  When I wrote a letter to the Butte County Board of Supervisors recently regarding the Cal Water rate hike, I got answers from both Maureen Kirk and Larry Wahl. They’ve asked Paul Hahn to agendize a letter to both Cal Water and the CPUC, and Larry Wahl said it looks like they’ll talk about it December 10th. I’ll keep you posted. 

Ask and ye shall receive. I wish I would have thought to write to the supes earlier. Maybe I’ll rattle off a note to the city council. 

Write to your county supervisors about Cal Water rate increase

12 Nov

 To: LWahl@buttecounty.net, MKirk@buttecounty.net; cc: district4@buttecounty.net, DTeeter@buttecounty.net, BConnelly@buttecounty.net

 Hi Larry, Maureen,

I don’t know what you’ve heard about the Cal Water rate increase, but I found out yesterday – a formal protest from a Marysville group has led to a hearing. The Dept of Ratepayer Assistance has recommended the increase be cut roughly in half. They wanted a 38 percent increase and now the DRA is recommending, I think, about 14 percent.

I also found out, water rates are different in various cities – O’ville, for example, pays about twice our Chico “service charge”, and their tier system starts out at over a dollar.

I’ll ask you Larry and Maureen, when was the last time you gave your water bill a good look? Do you know that the cost of a “ccf” in Chico has doubled over the past 5-6 years? And the “service charge” has gone from around $8 to now $14. For water that is pumped right out from under us, and then they add a bottle of chlorox (I’ve seen them do it) for “sanitation”.   We have a couple of wells on our properties, in fact, we just shared with our neighbors in digging a new well at one property, and it didn’t cost a fraction of what they’re trying to  tell us they spend maintaining a well. And, we can drink our well water right out of the tap – Cal Water tastes like PV Pool, complete with kids.

One notice I have lays it out right there – they want over $500,000 for pensions and benefits. Now they’re saying “to deliver quality water” or something like that, but in the original notice, they had to be straight, and it was for pensions, mostly for management personnel.

So, what can you do for us as our supervisors? City councilors, one a vice mayor, have gotten involved in Marysville and Visalia, written letters to the DRA and the CPUC, called Cal Water on the carpet. I’d like to see some support from you two, as well as Supervisors Teeter, Lambert and Connelly. Not only will this affect your constituents, wait til the cities, the county, and other agencies start getting their increased water bills. Chico Area Rec District has already discussed this issue, and they are expecting their bills to be outrageous.

For your convenience, here’s the contact information:  http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/puc/aboutus/Divisions/CSID/Public+Advisor/

– thanks, Juanita Sumner

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)

NEWSFLASH! Juanita Sumner ready to support a bond!

7 Oct

I will admit I had almost lost hope of stopping the proposed Cal Water rate increases when I heard the good news a couple of weeks ago that the state Ratepayers Advocate (DRA) had stepped in. They suggest the increase be cut in half. 

This all due to people in Oroville, Marysville, and Yuba City,  who kicked up a fuss, made a formal complaint, wrote letters, put signs on their lawns, etc.  If you go to the Oroville Mercury Register, or the Marysville Appeal Democrat, you will  find lively chatter regarding such topics as municipally owned water companies, eminent domaining a utility company, etc.

That’s right – in Oroville they’re actually  talking about eminent domaining Cal Water. One council member says this will require a bond to pay for the purchase, but he thinks the time is right to go to the voters . Look at what people are paying, just for household water. In Oroville people are already paying $200 or more to keep their lawns and landscaping alive.

I’ll say it – I’m ready to pay a reasonable bond with limits and a sunset date if it means we could own our own water, instead of a for-profit corporation that enriches itself not only off our rates but government hand-outs as well. We can ask that the bond money be used exclusively for the purchase of the water company holdings. We can pass an ordinance that requires a publicly elected board of directors and manager, and public input regarding employee contracts. I realize, it’s a big conversation – let’s have it!

 Read about Oroville and Marysville’s efforts here:

http://www.orovillemr.com/news/ci_24119735/council-supports-no-water-rate-increases

http://www.appeal-democrat.com/articles/water-125858-city-sewer.html