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Matthew Lickona 6 p.m., Nov. 17
Troubled watchdog Utility Consumers' Action Network (UCAN) today (Aug. 17) asked the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for creation of an emergency fund that will effectively forward intervenor fees UCAN would eventually get for its participation in the San Diego Gas & Electric (SDGE) general rate case. In the filing, UCAN says it is in "a fragile financial state. Unless it receives emergency funding, UCAN's operating revenues will soon be exhausted."
UCAN says its perilous finances result from legal expenses from whistleblower litigation, a grand jury subpoena of records regarding past management, and questions over restricted funds with a related group. UCAN says under the current arrangement, the commission wouldn't be making final determinations of intervenor compensation until spring of next year. That may be too late for UCAN's financing. UCAN concedes the CPUC has never granted intervenor special funding, but argues that it has the power to do so.
UCAN says that in the unlikely event that it does not survive, its remaining assets would be assigned by the Attorney General to an organization that performs similar work representing SDGE consumers. According to Kim Malcolm, new head of UCAN, that could include the organization recently set up by Michael Shames, the UCAN co-founder who was essentially dropped by UCAN, and whose activities have been under investigation. It could also include The Utility Reform Network (TURN), a San Francisco watchdog, she says.
Malcolm says that UCAN spent a lot of money providing documents to the U.S. Attorney's office, but there have not been requests recently.
Some critics of UCAN believe the board deliberately drained the group of its funds to facilitate a dissolution that would permit UCAN operations to move back under Shames under a different name. Such a move would also dispose of the whistleblowers who pointed out the many questionable activities that occurred during Shames's tenure.