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Facts about staggeringly high rates interrupt Peevey lovefest

SDG&E electricity rates the highest — by far

Last Thursday (December 18), the California Public Utilities Commission held a farewell for its president, Michael Peevey, retiring at the end of December after 12 years. The publication sfgate.com said the lovefest was "stage-managed to a T," as the agency's public relations head "instructed staffers to reserve 30 seats at the front" for people sure to heap praise on Peevey. They did. There was no mention of the emails showing that CPUC leaders, including Peevey, have been working sub rosa to assure that Pacific Gas & Electric gets off easy on its negligence leading to the 2010 pipeline explosion that leveled a neighborhood and killed a number of people.

June 2014 residential electricity rates

Finally, San Diegan Ray Lutz of Citizens Oversight spoke. He explained that CPUC regulates for-profit utilities — not the municipal utilities. And the for-profits regulated by the CPUC have vastly higher rates than the municipals. For example, San Diego Gas & Electric's residential rates for 1000 kilowatts are $374 a month. Pacific Gas & Electric's are $271 and Southern California Edison's $260. But here are some monthly rates of municipals: Anaheim $183, Riverside $172, Los Angeles $151, and Sacramento $143. As the Reader has revealed, emails show that Peevey has been fixated on profits and stock prices of the for-profit utilities.

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Last Thursday (December 18), the California Public Utilities Commission held a farewell for its president, Michael Peevey, retiring at the end of December after 12 years. The publication sfgate.com said the lovefest was "stage-managed to a T," as the agency's public relations head "instructed staffers to reserve 30 seats at the front" for people sure to heap praise on Peevey. They did. There was no mention of the emails showing that CPUC leaders, including Peevey, have been working sub rosa to assure that Pacific Gas & Electric gets off easy on its negligence leading to the 2010 pipeline explosion that leveled a neighborhood and killed a number of people.

June 2014 residential electricity rates

Finally, San Diegan Ray Lutz of Citizens Oversight spoke. He explained that CPUC regulates for-profit utilities — not the municipal utilities. And the for-profits regulated by the CPUC have vastly higher rates than the municipals. For example, San Diego Gas & Electric's residential rates for 1000 kilowatts are $374 a month. Pacific Gas & Electric's are $271 and Southern California Edison's $260. But here are some monthly rates of municipals: Anaheim $183, Riverside $172, Los Angeles $151, and Sacramento $143. As the Reader has revealed, emails show that Peevey has been fixated on profits and stock prices of the for-profit utilities.

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Comments
57

Of course Don we should all join in the lovefest, as in "Love to see you go Mike!"

Peevey is the posterboy for the hypocrisy and institutional corruption in Sacramento, where both parties (remember his PUC term was a product of Davis & Arnold with further butt-kissing from Brown) prove again and again that their first interest is the insider weasels with perceived power and/or money, not the people of California.

How much money has unfairly flowed from the public to private utilities because of the PUC under Peevey? If you're a liberal how could you not wonder about a system that openly promotes gouging of the public while simultaneously professing to be concerned about the plight of the working poor?

How much poorer are they because of Peevey?

(I was going to come up with a similar line about the conservatives, but since there are none with any infliuence in state government, it doesn't matter what they think.)

Peevey's retirement party may have been a lovefest, but his legacy at the PUC is a shamefest.

Dec. 22, 2014

Bob_Hudson: Agreed. The 12 years of Peevey as head of the CPUC have been a shamefest. You are also correct that both Democrats and Republicans have participated in this shamefest. Gray Davis, hearing screams from the utilities, in 2002 named Peevey to replace Loretta Lynch, who was pro-ratepayer. Ah-nold continued Peevey's reign and Brown, an old buddy of Peevey, kept him on board, and even lauded him.

The result was that private utility profits soared as ratepayers shelled out ridiculous monthly payments.

If you are keeping score, two Democrats and one Republican kept Peevey around to screw ratepayers. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 22, 2014

I particularly enjoyed the last line in the LAT story: "Minutes later, just before the lunch break, Peevey was caught on an open mike telling a colleague, "You think I'm going to miss this!"" Priceless!!!!!!!!!

Dec. 23, 2014

danfogel: Sounds like Peevey. And he knew that the laudatory speakers had been pre-arranged by his staff. Anybody not soaking in self-worship would have realized all that praise was phony as a three-dollar bill.

It's just more evidence that if the CPUC is ever cleaned up, more than the commissioners will have to go. Almost all the staff members -- particularly the administrative law judges -- have to be swept out the door. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 23, 2014

don baider I think we both know that's never going to happen.

Dec. 23, 2014

danfogel: Never say never. A complete cleanup may not happen in our lifetimes. But remember: there was a fellow named Hiram Johnson who was governor of California. Reform IS possible. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 24, 2014

Don Bauder That was a century ago. The world is a far different place now and politicians are bought and paid for with far greater ease (thank you SCOTUS)and power seems to corrupt more than ever. As far the PUC is concerned, remember, the commissioners terms are 6 yrs and their terms are staggered. Barring some criminal malfeasance, or perhaps I should say another criminal malfeasance, it will take a second term for a governor to change the make up of the commission. Barring criminal proceedings, at thee PUC the times they aren't a changin.

Dec. 24, 2014

danfogel: Excellent points. For years now, I have been lamenting on this blog that the progressive/populists of more than a century ago made progress against the Robber Barons, but today, people are not sufficiently aroused even with the situation worse.

I said real reform won't take place in our lifetimes. That's easy for me to say, because I am 78. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 24, 2014

Don Bauder I'm 58 and I seriously doubt that I will see it in my life time.

Dec. 24, 2014

danfogel: You could be right, too. One reason the California utilities can get away with charging so much is that residences use less power through a year than homes in the North. So it doesn't hit the wallet that hard -- seemingly. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 24, 2014

A thousand thousand watts for one dollar and forty-three cents in Sacramento? Maybe I'll become a lobbyist and move to Sacramento . . .

I am really peeved about this inequity!

Dec. 22, 2014

Twister: Whom would you be a lobbyist for? San Diego Gas & Electric? Please don't move to Sacramento. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 22, 2014

But Don, the bell is tolling!! I've got you a preposition for! Unless that is a undignity up with which you will not put!

Dec. 26, 2014

Twister: Yes, Winston Churchill realized the silliness of the rule against using prepositions to end a sentence. The rule is out of date. I follow it sometimes, but not if the sentence is clumsy to do so. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 27, 2014

It is a shame that the CPUC members and their political hacks can't all be thrown in jail. This just proves that the people have no say and that the politicians of all stripes are bought and paid for. Long before you cast your vote the die has been cast. Voters have a choice between corrupt and corrupted with no real peoples candidate.

Dec. 22, 2014

AlexClarke: Politicians of both parties are owned by big money. Obama's backing of the bill that would give Wall Street banks the opportunity to gamble on derivatives and then be bailed out when they lose was a real disappointment. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 22, 2014

Yes it was. By the way you are my favorite columnist and wishing you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holliday and Happy New Year!

Dec. 22, 2014

AlexClarke: And here's to you, too, and all those who comment on this blog. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 22, 2014

PEEVEY'S OPINION OF SAN BRUNO CITY MANAGER: HE IS "NUTS" Pacific Gas & Electric released more emails today (December 22) that shows clearly how CPUC president Mike Peevey favored Pacific Gas & Electric after its negligence caused a blast that leveled a neighborhood and killed eight people. Previous emails have shown that Peevey and other CPUC officials have been trying -- possibly illegally -- to make sure that PG&E gets off with a low financial punishment In the batch of emails released today, a former PG&E executive, who was allegedly fired, said that Peevey described the San Bruno mayor as "emotional" and the city manager as "nuts." In fact, the City of San Bruno has done an excellent job forcing the release of emails. PG&E said today that it would release 65,000 emails between the utility and CPUC officials such as Peevey. PG&E says will will release them in February. But there is one big problem: the emails will be released to the CPUC, which has been shown to be a dishonest organization. Will the CPUC conceal some of those emails? Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 22, 2014

It is hard to believe that nobody is currently investigating the CPUC with an eye to criminal indictment. Any DA in any county in the state that has a regulated utility (that's most of them), the AG, the FBI or even the US Civil Rights Commission could investigate and prosecute. It is all well and good that those regulatory bodies be allowed plenty of leeway in fulfilling their missions, but the courts are the backstop for all sorts of abuses. The CPUC should be no exception. I'm not in favor of endless lawsuits that drag out decision making for years, but in this case suits or indictments will be the only redress. The ballot box in this state is failing us all, and one-party dominance of state government just makes it worse.

Dec. 23, 2014

Visduh: Good points. Possibly when the 65,000 emails are released -- and not redacted by the CPUC -- enough people will wake up and put pressure on law enforcement. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 23, 2014

Redact, my Aspidistra! Certainly there're any number of slaves in the Peevish court who would like to feed information to a trustworthy investigative reporter like Bauder, but CA doesn't have a CA Huf 'n Puff Post, and the dailies have all had their fangs excised. Which reminds me--ladies (wherefore art y'all?) and gentlemen, we must exorsize our rights! Bulk up! Bare some wait!

Seriously, folks, feed DB some dirt! He won't divulge his sources!!!

Dec. 26, 2014

Twister: Our rights have already been exorcised, in the sense that our leaders consider our rights an evil. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 27, 2014

publish Peevey's home address I'm sure some of the rate payers would like to express their opinion to him in person.

Dec. 23, 2014

Peevey lives in La Canada Flintridge, or at least he did. Nice House, pretty big, gotta be at least 4k sq ft. In that neighborhood, probably worth 2.5 to 3 easy. It's not hard to find the address. Look it up for yourself and you can express your own opinion to him in person.

Dec. 23, 2014

thanks for the info, I hope he starts watching his back of he is aware his info is easy to find.

Dec. 23, 2014

danfogel: When he leaves, he will probably take a long trip abroad at the expense of utilities, to avoid the kind of attention he might receive at his home. He is accustomed to taking overseas jaunts at utilities' expense. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 23, 2014

Murphyjunkk: I thought somebody published it on this blog. He lives in the LA area but has some kind of housing in San Francisco. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 23, 2014

making personal info known on persons that are supposed to serve the public just might make them think long and hard about screwing over the public.

a bit like the small town approach, every one knows everyone and few get away with much.

Dec. 23, 2014

Murphyjunkk: The media in Northern California are really skewering Peevey, Florio and the other anti-consumer officials at the CPUC. Apparently, Gov. Brown either doesn't care or doesn't read the SF Chronicle and SJ Merc. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 23, 2014

You can bet that they have our coordinates--and the ability to put a drone message right through our windows . . .

Dec. 26, 2014

Twister: I am sure those drone messages won't drone on and on. They will be brief and to the point: Our way or highway. Remember how the Occupy movement was brutally put down. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 27, 2014

Murphyjunkk...wish we had that kind of "small town approach" here in San Diego. Here, everyone knows, and most get away with a lot.

Dec. 29, 2014

Wabbitsd: The higher on the totem pole, the more mischief people get away with. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 29, 2014

According to whitepages.com, it is: 1322 Verdugo Blvd. La Canada Flintridge, CA 91011-3140

Dec. 29, 2014

dwbat: People on this blog should send him a letter and tell him what they think of his incumbency. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 29, 2014

Charles Langley: Not long after you commented, Gov. Brown named a long-time PR and political fundraising hack to replace Peevey. (See post above.) He seems to be anti-ratepayer -- a Peevey clone. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 23, 2014

These calls for District Attornies to get involved - well what about the state legislature and, of course, the Governor's office? There is either tacit approval by them of the PUC's actions or else compete negligence: I suspect it's lot of both.

California state government, it's finances, and it's ability to address the most pressing policy issues is a massive fail. The old line about rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic comes to mind.

Instead we have a state legislature where the important issues of the day are banning plastic grocery bags and shaming Shamu's owners.

Mike Peevey and the PUC is a visible example of what is wrong with state government, but sadly there is so much moral corruption and incompetence among our alleged leaders that Peevey is not an anomaly, but business as usual.

Dec. 23, 2014

Bob_Hudson: Forget the governor's office. It is complicit in this corruption -- in fact, pulling the strings. The state legislature won't touch it because both political parties have had major roles in the corruption. The state attorney general is under Brown's thumb and won't do anything. Local district attorneys wouldn't dare touch it.

Federal investigators? Visduh raised the point. I hope so. I am not optimistic. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 23, 2014

How long have the CA governors been like this? I'm pretty sure Grey, Arnold, and Jerry have all been on-board with helping the utilities companies at the expense of ratepayers. But I can't really remember farther back than that.

Dec. 24, 2014

Pete Wilson supported energy deregulation. Deukmejian was anti renewable energy, thereby pro utility. Brown was already in office the first time when we moved to California, so I don't really know anything about Ronnie Raygun's time or times prior to him

Dec. 24, 2014

ImJustABill: Deregulation of California energy was a disaster. But the pols who favored it have not been scarred. It goes to show that the public doesn't pay that much attention. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 24, 2014

Interesting that in around 2001 or so, despite Davis' objections, the CPUC approved a 46 percent rate increase for the customers of PG&E and SCE. Yet less than 3 yrs later, he got the boot because the energy crisis happened on his watch and the perception was that he did nothing to stop it and in fact many feel he help it.

Dec. 24, 2014

danfogel: There were many reasons the voters tossed out Davis, but one reason was very clearly the energy crisis. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 24, 2014

Didn't Steve Peace get caught red-handed giving his wife a $100K+ state job for basically doing nothing? But I don't think much came of that.

Dec. 25, 2014

ImJustABill: I don't remember the Steve Peace incident, but if it happened, I can't imagine anything was done about it. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 25, 2014

I think some people thought it was suspicious that Cheryl Peace, a 20-year homemaker had the qualifications for a $117K/yr position on a Waste Management Board http://articles.latimes.com/2003/jan/11/local/me-peace11

Dec. 25, 2014

ImJustABill: How could those people think otherwise? Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 26, 2014

Don, "Deregulation" was a word that didn't really describe what was put forward on the public.

Dec. 29, 2014

Wabbitsd: That is a wise statement. What was called "deregulation" was not what the public got. For example, Wall Street deregulation was merely an attempt to return to the Robber Baron days and a repeal of Glass-Steagall. That isn't the way it was sold. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 29, 2014

I'm sure Sempra investors believe Peevey to be a saint.

Dec. 24, 2014

ImJustABill: Oh yes. Sempra stock by most measures is about the most highly-priced stock of the publicly-owned utilities. Sempra brags about its high stock prices and high profits and continues to fleece the public, and gets away with it. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 24, 2014

Christine Mann: Nobody went to jail over the pension scandal. Surprised? Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 25, 2014

I'm all for de-regulation in general, but there has to be some mechanism to reverse deregulation when it doesn't. Energy de-regulation in CA there seems to be a colossal failure but I don't see the political means or motivation to reverse it.

Dec. 25, 2014

ImJustABill: Peevey's 12-year tenure at the CPUC -- great for utilities' financial health but horrible for ratepayers -- is an example of the efficacy of deregulation. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 26, 2014

It might be worth noting that Morningstar, and in particular their Dividend Investor newsletter, think that both Edison International and Sempra are overvalued, and they advise against buying them. Now, how did they get priced over their calculated fair value? Morningstar uses many performance measures to determine the "intrinsic" worth of a stock, and a big part of the calculation is profitability. But in this case, the market values of both fare better than the calculation does, and that must be because the investors think the gravy train will continue. When it comes to evaluating both companies from a dividend yield standpoint, their dividend rates are low, compared to the industry as a whole. (As an aside, the utility stocks held in the two model portfolios of the dividend newsletter are Southern Company (SO), American Electric Power (AEP), National Grid PLC (NGG) and Public Service Enterprise (PEG). Their average dividend yield is about 4%. Sempra's Yield in 2.36% and Edison's is 2.13%.) So, it isn't dividends that elevate the prices of those utility companies, it is something else. That "something else" is a belief that the fat profits will continue and that the market value of both will stay high and get higher.

Dec. 26, 2014

Visduh: Right on. I have seen Wall Street reports touting Sempra, PG&E, or SCE on the grounds that the CPUC permits California's publicly-held utilities to enjoy higher profits than do the regulators in other states. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 27, 2014

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