Vincent Farnsworth 6:31 p.m., Dec. 4
PG&E Requests CPUC Rehearing on Commercial CCA Speech Rights
Pacific Gas & Electric Company has filed a request to strike a recent California Public Utilities Commission decision where CPUC regulates false and misleading commercial speech of investor owned utilities. The CPUC decision specifically addressed advertising by PG&E and other non-municipal utilities regarding what they could say to customers to prevent them from signing up for community choice aggregation (CCA) options offered by California cities and towns.
Under the current CPUC decision, PG&E was directly warned not to make false and misleading statements to customers regarding municipal CCA options. PG&E declares that it may be regulated only if false and misleading statements are proven in an unfair competition verdict against it after trial in a California Superior Court. In other words, absent a guilty verdict against it under Section 17200 of the Business & Professions Code, PG&E appears to assert that the First Amendment of the United States Constitution gives the corporation the right to say anything it wants.
Section 2102 of California's Public Utility Code holds PG&E to the higher standard that “Whenever the commission [CPUC] is of the opinion that any public utility is failing or omitting or about to fail or omit... in violation of law or of any order, decision, rule, direction, or requirement of the commission, it shall direct the attorney of the commission to commence an action or proceeding in the superior court... for the purpose of having such violations or threatened violations stopped and prevented, either by mandamus or injunction.”
PG&E's Proposition 16 recently was voted down in the June primary election. If it had passed, Proposition 16 would have required cities and towns to get a two-thirds voter approval to offer CCA options to utility customers. PG&E spent over $30 million in shareholder equity to lose the election and did not require a two-thirds vote of its customers to bring the constitutional amendment to a primary election vote.
During the campaign, pro-Proposition 16 commercials claimed that California voters had no rights concerning municipal utility spending. San Diego voters have had simple majority voting rights to modify or terminate the current electricity franchise with San Diego Gas & Electric Company since 1970.