Documenting SDG&E and Sempra's love affair with the regulators at California Public Utilities Commission
"The PUC is owned and
operated by the utilities."
~ Michael Shames, Executive Director of UCAN,
the Utility Consumers' Action Network
The September 3, 2009 edition of the Reader does a great job of covering a serious consumer problem at CPUC, the California Public Utilities Commission.
The Commission, which is charged with protecting consumers, has been co-opted by former utility executives who ignore the advice of their own experts, based in part on manufactured testimony. These appointed bureaucrats, called "Utility Commissioners" have a history of making horrific anti-consumer decisions.
In the article, columnist Don Bauder calls SDG&E's plan to shut off power to local residents during fires storms as "looney," and quotes Michael Shames, UCAN's Executive Director, as saying “The PUC is owned and operated by the utilities.”
And that's the ugly reality of today's CPUC. The five commissioners (the ones with the power) are political appointees with a rabidly pro-utility agenda. Meanwhile, the Administrative Law Judges, who actually read the evidence in regulatory hearings, are ignored. Thoughtful decisions by the judges are overruled by commissioners with an anti-consumer agenda. The mission of these political appointees, says Bauder, "... is massaging utilities and maiming consumers."
In three days, on September 10, the commission will meet to consider the implementation of SDG&E’s so-called Emergency Power Shut-Off Plan. SDG&E, a unit of Sempra Energy, proposes to turn off electricity to 57,000 backcountry customers and 125,000 residents during periods of high fire danger. Water districts, schools, disability rights advocates, and UCAN are fighting this horrific abuse of power. If a wildfire breaks out in a powerless area, phones, TVs, and computers won't work. Garage-door openers, street lights, traffic signals, and gas pumps may not function. People with disabilities will be trapped, and the lives of those who depend on medical life-support equipment will be jeapordized.
Bauder also notes that those who would not be inconvenienced by the shut-off are in favor of it. These include the San Diego City Council ( most of whom are the recipients of generous contributions from SDG&E's coffers).
As for the Wall Street "love affair" with California's anti-consumer regulators? Bauder notes that Gary F. Hovis of Argus Research says that Sempra’s “overall excellent experience with regulators should go a long way in preventing a precipitous falloff in profitability. We view the regulatory commissions at both the state and federal levels as fair and balanced.”
"That’s fair and balanced for investors. Not consumers," writes Don Bauder.
UCAN was formed in 1984 to protect consumers from San Diego Gas & Electric. If you support our efforts to fight high utility bills and SDG&E's control over the regulatory process, then please consider joining.