Dorian Hargrove 12:47 p.m., May 19
How to Count San Diego Gas and Electrical Companies (with Franchises or Not)
We apparently like systems redundancy here in San Diego.
We have a city council that is also our primary redevelopment agency when its not a city council, plus a centre city redevelopment agency as a separate corporation that sometimes actually reports to the primary redevelopment agency when it's not a city council, plus another southeastern redevelopment agency that is an entirely different corporation with a history of boosting the economic well-being of its president, staffers, and consultants with or without a budget, and who knows what other double-secret redevelopment agencies lurking about, most likely receiving unaccounted loans with accumulating interest from somebody else's federal block grant.
We also have San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E), which definitely is a public utility that is regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).
And we have Sempra Energy that owns SDG&E, which is not. Or is it? Shouldn't it be?
After all, Sempra Energy has been claiming all day long on television that we need it, every day. But what do we really need it for?
SDG&E is the public utility that bills us for the electricity it sends us every month.
Sempra Energy is a new kind of alleged non-utility that has an admitted aversion to regulation and collects a nice chunk of that power bill income from SDG&E before Sempra Energy sends roughly 40% of retained earnings on to the hedge funds and other institutional investor-speculators that really look forward to those quarterly dividend checks. Don't ask me what Sempra Energy does with the free electricity that SDG&E siphons off the grid from solar panel-using customers who generate more than they can use every day. Accounting for any uncompensated seizures under color of franchise authority is probably what some other part of the Sempra Entities is for, I guess.
SDG&E is the public utility that promises to have the power lines underground maybe two generations after the 2012 end of the Mayan calendar... and collects money every day from ratepayers to do just that, eventually. Not today, not any time soon, but eventually, probably well after your personal effects have been shipped to your next of kin from the old folks' home. Apparently, there'll be no undergrounding at all for the Sunrise Powerlink proposal. Not now, not ever. SDG&E periodically sends a nice franchise check to the city with the council that's a city council when its not a redevelopment agency, not like any member of the redevelopment agency board would ever want to talk about those checks within earshot of a reporter without first double-checking with our strong mayor.
Sempra Energy doesn't promise anything about putting power lines underground. Maybe it should.
According to the California Public Utility Code, a company A that provides electricity to another company B that in turn provides that electricity originally from A to the public, or any portion of the public thereof, is a public utility. Is Sempra Energy company A? I think it is. Maybe Sempra Energy secretly thinks so, too. Anybody who wants to start solving this legal puzzler can look up Public Utilities Code section 216 at http://leginfo.ca.gov for one's own amusement. If you can read 216 up through (c), then maybe you'll see it, too.
We might be able to tell if there was a test to see whether Sempra Energy thought so or not, especially if it appeared that SDG&E seemed to be in agreement.
I know.... if SDG&E and Sempra Energy were of the same mind and purpose, and one is a public utility, then the other one would be too, right?
Well, maybe and maybe not. It would help if they were of the same mind and purpose while doing the same project. Even better?
That could be it, but it would be really evident that both are public utilities if they both had the same mind and purpose in the same project, and if there were any legal issues regarding that project, then they were represented by the same attorney. That would seriously say something about both being public utilities that need CPUC regulation, wouldn't it?
Almost. It would be a clincher if there was evidence that the owner at least sometimes acted as the agent of the known public utility it owned, as if somebody from Sempra Energy would ever admit on paper that Sempra Energy (the owner) was the agent of SDG&E (the public utility) and was therefore acting as the subsidiary, contractor, or other agent of the public utility it already owned.
Like anybody at Sempra Energy would ever admit to that one without waterboarding.
Actually, it turns out that somebody at Sempra Energy just did.
Jacquelyn McHugh is a Sempra Energy manager for environmental compliance and safety. She made a declaration under penalty of perjury earlier this year, where she also declared she was ready and willing to testify in Court about who she is and about all of her long history of SDG&E and Sempra Energy jobs she has first-hand knowledge of. It's all on file downtown at the Superior Court in the Hall of Justice.
In her declaration, the attorneys representing both SDG&E and Sempra Energy in the same legal matter at the same time made sure that there was a copy attached of a letter sent by Sempra Energy to more than a few people. In that letter dated from September 25, 2000, people in Lemon Grove and San Diego were informed that Sempra Energy was the agent of SDG&E for dismantling the obsolete Encanto Gas Holder facility in 2000-2001. The person declaring knowledge of it all as site manager is McHugh. The McHugh declaration Sempra Energy letter states that copies were also mailed to the City of Lemon Grove and the council member's office for San Diego's 4th District.
It's the kind of stuff that the California Public Utilities Commission's Division of Ratepayer Advocates (DRA) might be particularly interested in lately, considering recent DRA inquiries this summer into SDG&E's current practices for expense accounting. DRA needs to verify for CPUC that SDG&E legal costs regarding the gas holder site for the trial in United States of America v. SDG&E (2007) are never passed on to SDG&E customers and consumers.
Attorneys for SDG&E and Sempra Energy have wanted to know if there are people out there who think that SDG&E is the alter ego of Sempra Energy, or that Sempra Energy is the alter ego of SDG&E. Presumably, they would be interested if many of us prefer checking the box marked “All of the above.”
Somehow, I just got the mental image of a serpent eating its own tail and not giving up until the job was done. There are reasons why Sempra Energy definitely does not want to be known as a California public utility, but that can wait for another blog, another day.