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Over a period of several years, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) cozied up to its buddies at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which cares about utility profits, but not about ratepayer fairness. SDG&E wanted its ratepayers to pick up uninsured costs for the damage it caused in the 2007 fires. A division of the CPUC had pointed the finger at SDG&E for negligence in those fires.

San Diego attorney Mike Aguirre took up the cause for San Diego ratepayers. He battled with pro-utility administrative law judges. He was able to block SDG&E's disingenuous attempt to misrepresent the mission: the utility kept insisting it only wanted indemnification for future fires, but as the fine print revealed, it really wanted coverage for the 2007 fires, for which it was found responsible.

Also, Southern California Edison (SCE), Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), and SDG&E claimed there was an insurance crisis. Aguirre showed there was no such crisis. SCE and PG&E, realizing the truth, backed down, leaving SDG&E standing there naked. After Aguirre caught SDG&E in these ruses, the CPUC reluctantly sided with Aguirre, saving San Diego ratepayers millions of dollars.

Today (March 6), the CPUC got its revenge. Aguirre had asked for $224,545 as costs of his work on the case, called intervenor fees. So, the CPUC today refused to give Aguirre one penny. The chief administrative law judge claimed that Aguirre did not make "a substantial contribution to the decision."

The truth is exactly the reverse of that. I watched that case from the beginning. The CPUC administrative judge said Aguirre was "obstructive, rather than helpful." That is the key. The CPUC wants intervenors to play ball, to give it deference, reverence. It deserves nothing of the sort.

I doubt if this is over.

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Don Bauder March 6, 2014 @ 9:49 p.m.

UCAN DENIED INTERVENOR FEES IN A DIFFERENT MATTER. Also today (March 6), the CPUC denied Utility Consumers' Action Network (UCAN) the $38,016 it requested in intervenor fees for its work on SDG&E's attempt to make agreements with Pio Pico Energy Center (denied), Quail Brush Power (denied) and Escondido Energy Center (approved.) The work had been done by Michael Shames, who was dropped from UCAN over a number of issues and later unsuccessfully tried to sue the consumer advocate organization. Best, Don Bauder

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Anon92107 March 7, 2014 @ 7:57 a.m.

The corrupt alliance between the CPUC and California public utilities has been going on for decades and has gotten outrageously worse since Peevey (former SCE President and current CPUC President) took over.

The shutdown of SONGS was entireley due to gross criminal negligence by CPUC and utility executives and threatens to destroy the California economy if they are allowed to charge the ratepayers for the worst case scenario consequences of their corruption.

This is one thing that Jerry Brown and the State legislature had better prevent.

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Don Bauder March 7, 2014 @ 8:45 a.m.

Anon92107: Peevey was not only president of SCE, he didn't last long on the job. He had led the attempted takeover of San Diego Gas & Electric and completely bungled it. Despite his record, he continued to thrive in the utility industry.

The CPUC cares only about profits of utilities and cares not a whit about financial stability of ratepayers. San Diego has been the victim time after time. Meanwhile, stock of Sempra, parent of SDG&E, keeps soaring. Standard & Poor's recently gave Sempra its lowest rating because the stock had moved up too fast. Best, Don Bauder

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Anon92107 March 10, 2014 @ 1:15 p.m.

Don, the threat to public safety is worse than we know, per an NBC News post today: "U.S. Nuclear Agency Hid Concerns, Hailed Safety Record as Fukushima " http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/fukushima-anniversary/u-s-nuclear-agency-hid-concerns-hailed-safety-record-fukushima-n48561

There is obviously more that the NRC is covering up about SCE and CPUC threats to public safety from SONGS, and there is much more to their criminal negligence than we know.

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Don Bauder March 10, 2014 @ 8:16 p.m.

Anon92107: I believe you are absolutely right. There is a big coverup underway on the topic of nuclear power. Best, Don Bauder

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Anon92107 March 11, 2014 @ 12:34 p.m.

Don - It's really a tragedy that we have lost control over the safety of nuclear fission power generation here and in Japan because in this age of Global Warming we desperately need non-CO2 producing power generators around the world and our scientists have totally failed to produce a fusion generator because of the military-industrial-corporate corruption that dominates our science, government and universities.

God Help our newest and future generations!

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Don Bauder March 11, 2014 @ 7:49 p.m.

Anon92107: Yes, we have lost control over the safety of nuclear power plants. It's a potentially deadly problem. Best, Don Bauder

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Burwell March 7, 2014 @ 9:55 a.m.

Sempra's stock is priced as if insiders or certain investors intend to acquire the company in a leveraged buy out or management is trying to sell the company. Sempra's stock price is way too high, considering the company's recent risky investments. For example, Mexican energy projects, etc. The rise in stock price makes no sense, unless there's something going on behind the scenes the public does not know about.

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Don Bauder March 7, 2014 @ 12:13 p.m.

Burwell: Standard & Poor's no longer rates Sempra stock a sell because of overvaluation. It has effectively a neutral or hold rating. However, S&P ranks stocks from 1, lowest, to 5, highest. Sempra still has a 1 rating --- the lowest.

As of today (March 7), the stock is trading at $93.52 and yielding only 2.8% -- lower than comparable utilities. I doubt there will be an LBO led by insiders; it is pretty expensive. Where would they get the money? I doubt if Sempra wants to put itself up for sale, either. I think the market has just carried it up excessively, greatly because of the pro-utility bias of the CPUC. Best, Don Bauder

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monaghan March 7, 2014 @ 3:09 p.m.

Isn't this basically a problem that Governor Brown should resolve at this point? (Or after he gets re-elected for the last time?) Cleaning up the CPUC so that it works fairly on behalf of ratepayers as well as profitably for the utilities seems ready-made for some Jerry Brown straight-talk and iron hand. (Maybe this outcome is Aguirre's karma for having endorsed Faulconer for Mayor instead of fellow-Democrat David Alvarez.)

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CaptD March 7, 2014 @ 5:08 p.m.

Gov. Brown is a BIG part of the problem since he can appoint the people who serve on the CPUC. Face it, our Regulators work for the Utilities not the ratepayers, because if they really worked for ratepayers, CA would have much lower energy rates and much more competition instead of a few high priced energy monopolies, whose shareholders have made record profits year after year after year!

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Don Bauder March 7, 2014 @ 7:45 p.m.

CaptD: For years, SDG&E had the highest rates in the country. Now SCE is going past SDG&E in some periods. Both have rates that are tremendously high. Peevey must be grinning ear to ear. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder March 7, 2014 @ 7:42 p.m.

monaghan: Brown should have done something a long time ago. His other appointments have appeared good, but Peevey still runs the CPUC. And all he cares about is guaranteeing fat profits and high stock prices for the publicly held utilities such as Sempra. He is letting PG&E get away with murder over the gas explosion. Best, Don Bauder

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CaptD March 7, 2014 @ 4:55 p.m.

Since the CPUC can and as this article points out, continues to penitalize those that speak out against its actions, is it any wonder that most attorneys simply will not take CPUC Utility related cases, which is exactly what both the CPUC and our Big Utilities want to prevent!

In case after case these Big Utilities might possibly get a wrist slapped while at the same time, if not before, also get a rate increase that more than makes up for any penalty the CPUC may give them.

Case in point, San Onofre's multi-Billion dollar replacement steam generator debacle resulted in an ongoing investigation that Edison and its minor partner SDG&E wants to end ASAP, yet the CPUC has recently just given them the OK for yet another rate increase worth over a Billion dollars! It is decisions like this that have resulted in SoCal having some of the highest priced Energy in the USA despite having some of the best weather in the USA, which is shame for everyone except Utility shareholders!

http://sanonofresafety.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/compareyourelectricrates2012-04.jpg

These Utilities wield so much influence that most of our MSM will not even present news stories that are not favorable to these Big Utilities that donate heavily to all candidates and charities, so that they can count on their public support should anything come before the CPUC This was evident when San Onofre got shut down and all those receiving support from the two Big Utilities, lined up to say publicly how much they and all their supporters needed San Onofre to be restarted since they wanted to stay in business; which as we all know today was just a bunch of Nuclear Baloney (NB) and Nuclear Payback* talking.

What phoboggers try and use to sidestep the reality of all the problems surrounding Nuclear Reactors; (like Safety, Fallout and the harmful effects of all kinds of radioactive particles) usually because of their connection to the Nuclear Industry!

** http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Nuclear+payback

Those that support nuclear power because nuclear power somehow supports them; no matter what the health implications or other "costs" are for others.

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Don Bauder March 7, 2014 @ 7:57 p.m.

viewer: But can CaptD come off on camera? Best, Don Bauder

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CaptD March 8, 2014 @ 9:10 a.m.

If they paid me half of what Michael Tuck gets, I'd be smiling ear to ear, Both on and off camera!

San Diego Rate Payers Deserve Lower Cost, Not More Expensive, Energy!

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Don Bauder March 8, 2014 @ 1:34 p.m.

CaptD: Yes, and Sempra, one of the most profitable utilities around, has the means to take the long view: that is, it should realize that its high profits could prove to be an embarrassment of riches, justifiably enraging ratepayers, and the company would be better off to give its customers a break, rather than try to pick their pockets all the time. But that would be giving Sempra management credit for intelligence that I suspect it doesn't have. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder March 9, 2014 @ 6:21 p.m.

viewer: Michael Tuck isn't so young anymore. Best, Don Bauder

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danfogel March 10, 2014 @ 10:20 a.m.

I'm pretty sure that viewer is referring to Michael tuck back in the late '70's-early '80's at channel 8 and then when he defected to channel 10. Tuck was always one of our favorite newscasters, so when we moved to Los Angeles in '94, we started watching KCBS basically because he was there. And yeah, he isn't so young anymore.I believe he's in his late 60's. I think he retired 4 or 5 yrs ago.

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Don Bauder March 10, 2014 @ 11:32 a.m.

danfogel: I have wondered what happened to him. I ran into him in the 1990s after he had gone to the station in L.A. and he told me the ratings were pretty bad. Haven't seen him since. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder March 7, 2014 @ 7:50 p.m.

CaptD: That is precisely what the CPUC is doing: frightening lawyers from taking on a California utility or the CPUC itself. Why beat your head against the wall if the deck is stacked against you? That is the same problem customers of SDG&E and SCE have: they feel it's futile to fight the system. So they just keep paying outrageous rates. Best, Don Bauder

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CaptD March 7, 2014 @ 5:16 p.m.

Another great example of the CPUC choosing to support SDG&E instead of SoCal ratepayers is their most recent decision to allow SDG&E to build a 1.6 Billion dollar gas fired peaker plant in Otay called Pio Pico which ratepayers will be billed for, a project that local activists proved was not necessary since SoCal residents are installing so many new solar roofs.

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Don Bauder March 7, 2014 @ 7:58 p.m.

CaptD: Yes, Pio Pico was a blow. Best, Don Bauder

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OSV1 May 6, 2014 @ 4:52 p.m.

If I understand this correctly, SDG&E customers can only be saddled with about 25% of that $3.3 billion travesty, due to our minority ownership of SONGS. SCE customers should have to foot the remaining 75% cost?

SCE has been engaging in wholesale layoffs, in most departments, for over a year now. There were layoffs that were blamed on SONGS closing, of course, but the company has also been holding ongoing meetings with all of it's permanent employees, wherein early retirements were actively encouraged, or so the rumors claimed. What's not a rumor is that long time employees of SCE who didn't take the package often got the axe.

Rumor had it that the excuse given for the layoffs was because of the impending rate increase request that SCE was making, which as we now know, is designed in part to rip off the people who paid for solar energy installations: http://www.turn.org/issues/energy/item/749-utilities-seek-electric-rate-increases.html

The latest layoffs(~1,000 people) have just now finally rolled around to the festering cesspool of SCE mgmt in Irwindale, where you'll recall: "Indeed, top-heavy management contributed to an "unhealthy" workplace environment at Edison's Irwindale offices, an independent audit concluded after an Irwindale information technology employee, Andre Turner, 48, went on a shooting rampage in December 2011, killing two co-workers and wounding two others before taking his own life with a semiautomatic handgun." http://articles.latimes.com/2014/apr/15/business/la-fi-edison-layoffs-20140415

What's the best thing that you can do? Buy SCE stock, because it's going up, analysts are saying that the future looks bright for SCE. SDG&E will probably also be a solid investment.

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