City Sewer Department Settlement Brings Long Overdue Refunds to Residents
In March, 2004, UCAN's (The Utility Consumers' Action Network) executive director learned that the City of San Diego had been systematically overcharging residential customers (and undercharging large commercial customers) for sewer bills. When confronted, the city admitted that it had applied the wrong rates, in violation of state law. In June, 2004, the City Council revised sewer rates -- boosting those of commercial users and lowering those of residents to eliminate the overcharges to residents. But the city did not offer to reimburse residential ratepayers for years of overpayment.
After more than two years of litigation, the City agreed to a settlement that would return about $40 million to overcharged residential customers and would allow for the creation of independent oversight of City water and sewer operations. The latter may be the most valuable part of this settlement, as it gives City utility customers the ability to effectively question future rate increases.
This settlement affects all SINGLE-FAMILY RESIDENTIAL SEWER CUSTOMERS (WITH ADDRESSES INSIDE THE CITY OF SAN DIEGO LIMITS) WHO PAID SEWER BILLS FROM MAY 23, 1994 THROUGH SEPTEMBER 30, 2004.
In the coming months, a notice will be sent in your sewer bill, which informs you that you will be entitled to share in a FORTY MILLION DOLLAR ($40,000,000.00) settlement fund if you choose to be a member of a Settlement Class provisionally certified by the Superior Court of California, for the County of San Diego.
UCAN will conduct an application process for qualified non-profits to use the access to utility bills to solicit money for the independent oversight of the City Water and Sewer departments. Details of that application process will be forthcoming. Groups interested in taking advantage of the process will need to meet minimum requirements, that include:
- $250K initial budget for staffing and inserts
- 501(c)(3) status
- Experience with rate case or financial review of utility operations
- An identified staff person who will oversee consultants/experts hired with the solicitation monies
- An adequate accounting system to confirm intake and expenditures of money raised by the solicitation
- Some public track record so as to have sufficient credibility
- No conflicts of interest with the City e.g. truly independent status
- The UCAN Water Project began formally on May 1, 2010 after UCAN had raised enough money from inserts placed into City Water bills.