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California Public Utilities commissioner Ferron resigns

Warns that utilities need to be watched "very, very carefully"

Mark Ferron, commissioner of the California Public Utilities Commission, resigned yesterday (January 15). In 2012, he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer.

Pete Hasapopoulos, organizer for the San Diego Chapter of the Sierra Club, points out that in his departing statement, Ferron said that California utilities are more enlightened than those in "coal-loving" states, "although I suspect that they would still dearly like to strangle rooftop solar if they could." Ferron questioned whether some utilities have the ability or will to manage the complex organizations they oversee.

"I am very worried about our utilities' commitment to their side of the regulatory compact," said Ferron in his statement. "We at the commission need to watch our utilities' management and their legal and compliance advisors very, very carefully; it is clear to me that the legalistic, confrontational approach to regulation is alive and well. Their strategy is often: 'We will give the commission only what they explicitly order us to give them.'"

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Mark Ferron, commissioner of the California Public Utilities Commission, resigned yesterday (January 15). In 2012, he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer.

Pete Hasapopoulos, organizer for the San Diego Chapter of the Sierra Club, points out that in his departing statement, Ferron said that California utilities are more enlightened than those in "coal-loving" states, "although I suspect that they would still dearly like to strangle rooftop solar if they could." Ferron questioned whether some utilities have the ability or will to manage the complex organizations they oversee.

"I am very worried about our utilities' commitment to their side of the regulatory compact," said Ferron in his statement. "We at the commission need to watch our utilities' management and their legal and compliance advisors very, very carefully; it is clear to me that the legalistic, confrontational approach to regulation is alive and well. Their strategy is often: 'We will give the commission only what they explicitly order us to give them.'"

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Here are the full paragraphs of Commissioner Ferron's comments related to the investor owned utility companies like SDG&E:

"We are fortunate to have utilities in California that are orders of magnitude more enlightened than their brethren in the coal-loving states, although I suspect that they would still dearly like to strangle rooftop solar if they could. Modern utilities are subject to a rapidly evolving business environment, and I wonder whether some top managers at our utilities have the ability or the will to understand and control the far-flung and complex organizations they oversee. And I am very worried about our utilities’ commitment to their side of the regulatory compact. We at the Commission need to watch our utilities’ management and their legal and compliance advisors very, very carefully: it is clear to me that the legalistic, confrontational approach to regulation is alive and well. Their strategy is often: “we will give the Commission only what they explicitly order us to give them”. This is cat and mouse, not partnership, so we have to be one smart and aggressive cat."

"Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, with the passage of AB327, the thorny issue of Net Energy Metering and rate design has been given over to the CPUC. But recognize that this is a poisoned chalice: the Commission will come under intense pressure to use this authority to protect the interest of the utilities over those of consumers and potential self-generators, all in the name of addressing exaggerated concerns about grid stability, cost and fairness. You – my fellow Commissioners - all must be bold and forthright in defending and strengthening our state’s commitment to clean and distributed energy generation."

His words of caution and advice are especially timely as the CPUC gets ready to issue decisions on whether or not our region gets saddled for decades with new fossil fuel power plants like the proposed Pio Pico gas plant in Otay Mesa and others that SDG&E wants to build around the region. SDG&E's power plant scheme is to charge electricity customers billions of dollars for power plants that we don't need while they "strangle rooftop solar" in the state legislature and at the CPUC.

Jan. 17, 2014

PeteHasapopoulos: I agree that Ferron's full statement packs wallop. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 18, 2014

Don, decades of gross criminal negligence by the owners of SONGS, enabled by CPUC corruption are going to cost ratepayers $Billions.

It's time for Book II of "Paradise Plundered" to warn the public that corruption is totally out of control in San Diego, especially with Manchester's sycophant editorial board producing daily deranged rantitorials throughout the paper designed to fleece San Diegans more than anytime in history.

Keep up your great investigative reporting Don, you have a whole new career ahead of you trying to save what is left of quality of life in San Diego.

Jan. 18, 2014

Anon92107: I appreciate the kind words, but there is no "whole new career ahead of you," because I am 77 years old. I agree it is time for Book II of "Paradise Plundered," and next time I talk with Steve Erie I will mention it. I am sure others have already suggested it. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 18, 2014

Now is the time for all of us to demand a Pro-ratepayer be added to the CPUC instead of just another Pro-Utility lackey foisted upon us because Gov. Brown owes some Big Utility donor a favor!

Jan. 18, 2014

Founder: Agreed. Actually, I was optimistic about some appointments (other than Peevey and Simon), but they have been disappointing. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 18, 2014

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