Don Bauder 5:30 p.m., March 14
- Community Blog
- Encanto Gas Holder
SDG&E: CPUC Must Do What Law Does And Does Not Allow
In a recent decision to deny the P1007016 petition regarding fair individual metering of apartment family units, attorneys for San Diego Gas & Electric Company argued in opposition that California's Public Utilities Commission cannot do what the law does not allow it to do by directly amending the California Public Utilities Code. This is a perfectly reasonable thing to argue, and CPUC is perfectly reasonable to agree with SDG&E's argument. Most of us who were paying attention in high school civics are aware that it is the Assembly and Senate of California that creates and amends laws that are the California Codes, unless we the people of California say in an election that the law is what we say it is by passing ballot initiatives to amend the California Codes.
In a completely different matter, SDG&E, Pacific Gas and Electric Company and Southern California Edison components filed their own A0908020 application for the authority to charge customers for uninsured wildfire legal damages and all other uninsured wildfire-related costs. Attorneys for these investor-owned power utilities (known in CPUC hearings and documents as the IOUs) argue that it is a consumer benefit that CPUC limit the liability of IOUs for wildfire damage as a second phase of A0908020 hearings. CPUC's own attorneys argue that there appears to be no provision in the California Codes that allow the CPUC to do that without creating some law granting CPUC the power to limit liability of anybody with business before the Commission if that body winds up on the losing side in Superior Court.
The Supreme Court of the United States has given its opinion that there is a corporate right of free political speech in the contribution of funds to political campaigns. I happen to believe that this is a rather narrow interpretation of the law and does not give an artificial person (such as a corporation) the same free speech rights as a natural person like you or me. While a corporation may pay for any number of political messages to be made in public, it has no right to publish something it knows to be false merely for the purpose of getting anyone to vote yea or nay on anything. The reason I believe a corporation cannot legally lie to us, specifically when that corporation happens to be a California public utility, is because the IOUs in general and PG&E in particular have been ordered by CPUC not to make false statements in political campaigns earlier this year, before PG&E lost its campaign in support of its constitutional amendment proposal, Proposition 16.
It is against the law for a public utility to disobey a CPUC order. If the attorney for CPUC sues in Superior Court and wins over a disobedient public utility, the penalties described in California's Public Utilities Code are to be cumulative to any other penalty authorized by the law for related offenses. The penalties just described cannot be used to to prevent a public utility from being held in contempt by CPUC.
The P1007016 petition was to allow for individual power metering in single-meter apartment buildings that would make each customer responsible for her or his share of the power bill. This seems like a goal that is beneficial to the public, but asking for CPUC to change the law in the application raised a legitimate objection to the application, even if it were beneficial to the people of California. By preventing something unconstitutional, there appears to be some foreseeable damage to multi-unit consumers by having them pay for somebody else's power usage. This doesn't sound beneficial to consumers, at least not to me.
Nothing about the A0908020 Wildfire Expense Balancing Account (WEBA) authority application seems reasonable to me when it comes to utility negligence, regulatory indifference or illegal activity that starts more wildfires whether SDG&E and the other IOUs can afford the insurance or not. No public utility should do what it cannot tolerate others to do to it. Under the Sabotage Prevention Act, nobody may cause a public utility to be threatened, damaged or destroyed, where public utilities are declared to be defense preparedness activities, and so public utilities may always seek legal protection from harm by anyone. At the same time, SDG&E and the other IOUs are now arguing that there is a constitutional duty for CPUC to authorize ordinary ratepayers to pay for the acts and omissions of the utilities when it comes to uninsured wildfire expenses, as if we were the ones who damaged the utility, not the other way around.
Before the utility-caused wildfires arrive in San Diego County again, the hot off-shore wind doesn't just blow. It sucks big money from stressed-out consumer's already taxed monthly budgets.
Final Decision RE P1007016 Petitionhttp://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PUBLISHED/FINAL_DECISION/125780.htm