Thom Hofman 6:15 a.m., June 19
Outrageous scam by CPUC
Last-second maneuver by regulator may permit SDGE to pick your pocket of $1 billion
I have been reporting on financial fraud for almost 50 years and seldom if ever have I seen a scam like the one that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) appears to be pulling on San Diego utility ratepayers. San Diego Gas & Electric (SDGE) would appear to be a party to this thoroughly disingenuous maneuver. Tomorrow, the commission was supposed to vote on two different opinions -- one by an administrative law judge, and the other by a CPUC commissioner -- regarding under what circumstances San Diego Gas can get its ratepayers to pay for uninsured costs of FUTURE fires. The judge, after lengthy hearings, had thumbed the proposal down, but Commissioner Timothy Alan Simon had said that under some circumstances such payments could be required to cover FUTURE fires.
Neither decision dealt with covering the cost of the 2007 fires. SDGE, which has been held responsible for them, had originally wanted such coverage. First, suspiciously, the hearing was put off from late November to five days before Christmas, tomorrow. Then, today, the CPUC quietly slipped a change in Simon's opinion. Buried deep inside was a huge change: Simon's opinion now DOES cover the 2007 fires. The San Diegans who have been fighting against SDGE on this matter found it by a stroke of good fortune. The CPUC has something called the "subscription list." Diane Conklin of the Mussey Grade Road Alliance recently discovered it and got on the list. And there, hours before the hearing, was the change in Simon's opinion. She figures that this list is used for "minor changes," such as slight wording alterations. Both she and San Diego attorney Mike Aguirre, who has been battling SDGE's attempt to sting its customers, read the document. Clearly, there was a monumental change. "If the commission votes for this, it is stepping in front of a mad rhinoceros," says Conklin.
So what happens tomorrow? Conklin believes there may be a chance that the commission will vote down Simon's newly revised opinion. But Aguirre says, "The deal has been cut." He protests the alternative proposal on grounds of violation of the Brown Act and violation of due process. "The people of San Diego have seen slow-motion corruption by the CPUC. I personally would like to see a grand jury investigation" by either the U.S. Attorney in San Diego or in San Francisco, says Aguirre. Even if somehow the commission turns down the sneak assault, there should be an investigation of how the CPUC attempted to pull it off.