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As part of its general rate case, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDGE) wants to institute a so-called "prepaid utility service program" that would allow the utility to disconnect a customer four days after payments are exhausted. The Division of Ratepayer Advocates, part of the California Public Utilities Commission, says that this abrupt dropping of service is much shorter than the current legally required minimum notice. "I think this is going to hurt the most vulnerable households the worst," says Kim Malcolm, who came in recently as executive director of watchdog Utility Consumers' Action Network (UCAN). "There will be funds in a household account and when the funds get to zero, service will be cut off."

A study by the National Consumer Law Center indicates that the prepayment program harms low- and moderate-income consumers, and will result in more frequent loss of service for nonpayment. In particular, the center notes that this program, which would be the first of its kind in California, will endanger people's health, as refrigerators suddenly go dark and food spoils, among other dangers to the neediest families.

Malcolm points out that there will be public hearings on SDGE's general rate case (not just the prepaid program) this month. Dates: June 26, 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. in Chula Vista, 276 4th Ave.; June 27, 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. in San Diego, Al Bahr Shrine Center, 5440 Kearny Mesa Road, and June 28, 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. in Escondido at the arts center, 340 N. Escondido Blvd. Malcolm hopes San Diego County residents will turn out to protest the prepaid program, as well as other attempts by the utility to pass costs to its customers.

To me, SDGE's attempt to impose the prepayment program on customers is another example of the company's philosophy of putting its entire emphasis on the profits of its parent, Sempra Energy (already one of the most profitable utilities in the U.S.), while ignoring the needs of customers, the community, employees, the general economy, and vendors.

Malcolm now heads a staff of nine at UCAN. However, according to the settlement agreement in UCAN's earlier failed attempt to dissolve, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, which has four employees, will be transferred out of UCAN if Superior Court and the Attorney General concur. Also, Michael Shames, who preceded Malcolm as executive director, resigned as a part of the settlement agreement. He will continue to provide counsel, at least through the rate case. Also, if the settlement is approved, four of the five board members will be replaced within six months if possible.

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Comments

nan shartel June 12, 2012 @ 5:45 p.m.

can't those idiots just give it a break!!*&)(%^#@$%

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Don Bauder June 12, 2012 @ 6:10 p.m.

Hey, Sempra recently raised its dividend by a whopping amount. That is its modus operandi: screw the customer, fatten the bottom line. Best, Don Bauder

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nan shartel June 12, 2012 @ 8:50 p.m.

u can borrow my bullet Don....hahahahahahahahahha

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Don Bauder June 13, 2012 @ 6 a.m.

Yeah, but I can't shoot straight. Best, Don Bauder

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nan shartel June 13, 2012 @ 11:20 a.m.

u shoot straighter then most Don...and from the hip!!

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Don Bauder June 14, 2012 @ 4:41 p.m.

I proved I couldn't shoot straight when I was in the Army 54 years ago. Best, Don Bauder

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nan shartel June 15, 2012 @ 6:41 a.m.

oh phish...that was a double entendre white man

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Burwell June 12, 2012 @ 6:23 p.m.

Sempra probably wants to profit from float: the delay between the date the customer makes a deposit to the household account and the date the bill is debited to the account. By forcing ratepayers to pay their bills in advance, Sempra could accumulate a $300 million or more permanent float and use it to invest in the stock market or loan money to credit card companies. This is a scheme for Sempra to obtain interest free money from ratepayers to invest in derivatives or other financial products.

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Don Bauder June 12, 2012 @ 7:22 p.m.

Right again, Burwell. The prepaid account permits SDGE and parent Sempra to live off the float. When you pay upfront, Sempra has use of your money, which it can use to invest or gamble in markets of its choice. Then if you don't pay, it can cut you off abruptly. Nice scam if you can get it from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). And don't be surprised if SDGE gets it. The CPUC commissioners are pro-utility and anti-consumer. Sempra's only interest is the price of its stock. San Diegans should show up at the hearings this month and scream. Best, Don Bauder

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monaghan June 12, 2012 @ 8:29 p.m.

And while we're showing up at the hearings, we can complain about the rolling blackouts that have been happening like clockwork all around San Diego over the last two months. These power outages are frequent, last for hours, and are regularly mentioned on KPBS radio but never investigated. Where's the rebate? What's the reason? Who's responsible?

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Don Bauder June 12, 2012 @ 8:49 p.m.

Another question: where's the press? (Other than KPBS, of course.) I will take a mea maxima culpa. I haven't mentioned the blackouts. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh June 12, 2012 @ 8:50 p.m.

Now that the Sunrise link is complete, SDGE has lost any credibility in regard to power "shortages." The link is far beyond anything needed to meet current needs, even if all or nearly all local power plants go down. They have access to power from both sides of the border all the way to Tucson and beyond.

What do you want to bet that the rhetoric from SDGE hq doesn't change a bit? They'll still keep up the alarmist talk about power outages for as long as San Onofre is off line. (And that could be for a long time, or . . . forever.) Now that the link is complete they will just forget they have it for the record and keep up the same drill they've had for years.

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Don Bauder June 13, 2012 @ 6:21 a.m.

I have been covering San Diego business for almost 40 years and it amazes me that SDGE can abuse the public time and time again with impunity. An outage should generate outrage. More significantly, so should a plan devised to screw ratepayers. But somehow, SDGE gets away with it. Most of the media don't adequately cover the abuses, in my judgment, because of the ad dollars SDGE spreads around. Best, Don Bauder

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Fred Williams June 13, 2012 @ 12:06 p.m.

As a kid growing up poor, we had our electricity turned off more than once.

It's not just the lights going out, meaning you cannot read your books for school tomorrow, (forget about today's student's computing and communication needs).

As Don says, it's also the food in the fridge (a large percentage of a meager income) that will be wasted. It's taking a cold shower, in the dark. It's not having an alarm clock, or any practical way to cook food, so just eating becomes quadruply expensive.

Soon after, the landlord evicts your family (you cannot vacuum the carpet or ventilate the toilet without electricity...things fall apart, every one is very sorry). Some of your siblings sleep on friends' and relatives' couches, others in the car...stuff happens, most of it very bad.

It's the little missteps, like not making your electricity bill, that triggers the avalanche.

Tonight, even on the eminently worthly PBS, you'll see a Sempra commercial, bragging how much they care for kids and the next generation....

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Visduh June 13, 2012 @ 7:27 p.m.

If you're correct about those "non-commercial" commercials on public broadcasting, it makes me doubly glad I don't watch TV and don't even have a set in the house.

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Don Bauder June 15, 2012 @ 10:59 p.m.

I'll bet you are too young to remember that when cable TV first came in, there weren't supposed to be advertisements. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder June 14, 2012 @ 4:45 p.m.

Sempra would like the poor to just go away. This proposal will hasten the process, if the CPUC commissioners accept it. They well might. Those commissioners are contemptuous of the general public. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder June 16, 2012 @ 9:44 a.m.

Told from the heart, Fred. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder June 16, 2012 @ 1:01 p.m.

Fred deserves the blessings. Best, Don Bauder

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nan shartel June 16, 2012 @ 11:16 a.m.

those ads do surprise me Fred...on OPB in Oregon there are no commercial

greedy liars...in the olden day they would (according to movies of the times) get their JUST deserts

how far away that seems when we say good night now John Boy

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Don Bauder June 16, 2012 @ 1:08 p.m.

Yes, almost all media are afraid to tell the truth about corporate America. Very sad. Best, Don Bauder

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