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Troubled Utility Consumers' Action Network (UCAN) has asked the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to pay it $535 an hour for the work that its former executive director, Michael Shames, did on the general rate case of San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E). The CPUC rewards intervenors who enter into discussions of a case with monetary compensation, called "intervenor compensation." Previously, Shames had asked for and received $330 a hour. But at those times, Shames was not a member of the bar and the CPUC pays more to attorneys. He later rejoined the bar at the insistence of UCAN's then-chairman. UCAN doesn't mention any of this in its application for remuneration for Shames's SDG&E work. Nor does it mention that Shames was let go, and is now suing UCAN, which is countersuing him. UCAN is also asking for $390 an hour for the work of Donald Kelly, who was brought in to be executive director after two others had departed after brief stays. Kelly was formerly a University of San Diego law student of Robert Fellmeth, who had come back to the UCAN board, although he has since left, leaving the door open for a later reappointment. Fellmeth had founded UCAN with Shames.

The state auditor is expected to release a report on intervenor compensation on July 23.

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Comments

CaptD July 16, 2013 @ 7:38 a.m.

UCAN should be replaced with an entirely new group of ratepayers; the current group has prove themselves unable to provide the public oversight required and have been far more interested in making money for themselves than protecting ratepayers!

While intervenor compensation is indeed a bucket of worms, especially since the CPUC has final say as to exactly what levels of billing and or subject matter researched they will and will not reimburse for it goes without saying that it is also true by CPUC mandate that the Utilities themselves are free to pile on the number of their lawyers along with other "expert" employees that they can then use to defend themselves while having all their costs paid for by the ratepayers, who have (yet again) no oversight on how their money is spent!

While public watchdog groups struggle to gather enough money to even attend CPUC meeting, that are held at many locations around the state of California, Utility attendees get royal treatment often staying in top tier hotels and dining in style all on the ratepayers dime!

Contrast how the Utility can afford to self fund all their expenses, because they are billing ratepayers for everything to what a real citizens watchdog group Citizens Oversight is trying to collect from members so that they can attend these meetings:

2013-07-15 -- (Mon) The California Energy Commission (CEC) is holding a workshop at UCLA on post-San Onofre power management in California.

WE are not going to be kept on a leash, so we are looking to our network of supporters for help to cover transportation, housing, meals and copying/other administrative expenses. By bundling these two trips together, we can reduce the overall cost and still cover all the bases. Unlike our regulated Utility counterparts, we don't have millions of dollars in ratepayer or shareholder funding for OUR advocacy and we operate very frugally, primarily using our own funds, so your assistance is VERY MUCH APPRECIATED AND ESSENTIAL to our involvement!

Expense Item Est. Amount Car expenses/Gas for San Diego to S.F. and to UCLA $350 Lodging $400 Meals $150 Copying/Printing while in Hearings: ($25/day) $50 TOTAL $950 Several contributors have stepped forward and have contributed: $180 Left to our goal: $770

Can you help us make our goal? PLEASE HELP US TODAY! Donate To Citizens Oversight: http://www.copswiki.org/Common/DonateToCitizensOversight

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Don Bauder July 16, 2013 @ 8:47 a.m.

Capt D: The CPUC uses intervenor compensation to make sure that tough lawyers don't rock their friendly little rowboat that is so pro-utility and anti-ratepayer. Not long ago I wrote a column showing how the CPUC denied Mike Aguirre intervenor compensation; he fought too hard and too cleverly for a point of view that ultimately triumphed (at least to this date), but he wasn't sweet and deferential about it. Both Shames and SDG&E wrote the CPUC and recommended that tough lawyer Aguirre not get compensation. It's an insiders' racket. Best, Don Bauder

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CaptD July 16, 2013 @ 8:13 a.m.

Where is our MSM's coverage of real news of major importance?

Why do stories like these never make the nightly news?

San Onofre's ongoing Multi-Billion dollar ratepayer debacle, that should already be issuing Billions of dollars in rate refunds to all ratepayers, yet is kept quiet. and SDG&E's newly proposed Pio Pico Energy Center, LLC *that is expected to cost $1.6 Billion, which has already been shown as not-needed if SoCal installs more rooftop solar and energy efficient upgrades.*

These and others continue to fly below the public's radar thanks to the MSM's reluctance to report on local energy related stories of major importance to all those living in SoCal and especially $an Diego!

Face it, without oversight we will continue to get ever more rate increases and that is something $an Diego can no longer afford!

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Don Bauder July 16, 2013 @ 8:50 a.m.

CaptD: The mainstream media do not give sufficient coverage to how SDG&E and Southern California Edison are fleecing the public. Could advertising dollars be influencing this? I will let you decide that. Best, Don Bauder

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CaptD July 16, 2013 @ 9:38 a.m.

Utility "public outreach" money often gets used by Utilities to get ratepayer groups to support whatever the Utilities want before the CPUC; this was easy to see in all the groups of business people that spoke to keep San Onofre open because SCE and SDG&E were "great neighbors" because they helped small businesses by giving back to the Communities ; left unsaid was the fact that what they were giving back monies that were already taken from these same Communities in the form of high energy rates).

Another example of this "outreach payback" was when SCE gave out meals, tee shirts and even pre-paid money cards to get "supporters" to show up for some CPUC and/or NRC meetings!

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Don Bauder July 16, 2013 @ 1:32 p.m.

CaptD: I have always chuckled as the San Diego business community backs SDG&E. Business gets hit with excessive rates, too. Actually, it's not surprising. Throughout the U.S., businesspeople tend to support blatant crooks, until it gets too hot (Enron, Madoff, e.g.); only then do they back away. Best, Don Bauder

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