Let's face it - being 'green' is the new cool. But sometimes an ulterior, industry-driven motive lurks behind the 'green halo' that we trust in so-called environmental organizations. This blog is dedicated to keeping individuals and organizations who claim to be for clean, renewable energy accountable.

Monday, September 22, 2008

PG&E, Edison & Sempra Enabler Exposed

The only funding for the No on Prop 7 campaign is the jaw-dropping $27 million from PG&E, So Cal Edison, and Sempra. So I was of course interested in the revelation that Southern California Edison was fined $146 million for violations associated with rigged customer satisfaction surveys and falsified safety data. The Pasadena Star News reports that:

“Edison employees and management manipulated and submitted false customer satisfaction data that was used to determine Performance Based Ratemaking customer satisfaction rewards during the period from 1997 to 2003.

Edison was ordered to refund to its ratepayers all $28 million in rewards it has received and to forgo an additional $20 million in rewards the utility has requested. Thursday's decision also finds that Edison submitted false and misleading health and safety data - a move that likewise resulted in an order for the utility to refund to ratepayers all $20 million in PBR health and safety rewards it has received and to forgo another $15 million in rewards it has requested.

The commission additionally ordered Edison to refund to consumers $32,714,000, the portion of its 2003-2005 revenue requirement related to the utility's results-sharing program that was affected by fraudulent data.

Lastly, Edison was ordered to pay a fine of $30 million to the state's general fund for violations of the Public Utilities Code.”This is only the most recent time that California’s Big Utilities have been busted for ripping off consumers."

TURN, a utility watchdog, has provided a neatly detailed list of shenanigans by Big Utilities and their enablers. As I was perusing the press releases, however, I noted a recurring theme – that the California Public Utilities Commission often acts as a Big Utilities enabler.

Why is that relevant? The CPUC also made news this week when it came out with a less-than-positive review of Prop. 7. The CPUC is dominated by Schwarzenegger appointees who support deregulation of CA’s electricity market. According to TURN, the Big Utilities foremost enabler of ripping off Californians is the CPUC itself. Here are some highlights of the Big Utilities ripping off Californians, with and without the help of CPUC:

December 20, 2007: California Public Utilities Commission gives “Christmas gift” to Big Utilities: The California Public Utilities Commission today bucked a national trend toward lower profits for regulated utilities, guaranteeing inflated profits for PG&E, Edison and SDG&E. Instead of grabbing the opportunity to lower electric bills throughout California, under today's decision PG&E and Edison will continue to receive profits far above other utilities, and SDG&E will begin collecting inflated profits as well. Says TURN Executive Director Bob Finklestein: "There is no justification for awarding windfall profits that come out of the pockets of hard-working Californians. The CPUC is out of touch with the national trend toward lower guaranteed profits, and is also out of touch with the struggles many Californians already face to afford essentials like heat, light and hot water." Read the rest here.

April 18, 2007: PG&E ordered to return $23 million in illegal back bills to customers: A judge found that over 3,400 customers had their power shut-off for nonpayment of illegal back-bills. PG&E should pay reconnection fees and credits to customers shut off between 75 and 150 days of receiving illegal back-bills. Over 225,000 customers received illegal back bills during the time in question. All customers illegally back billed by PG&E suffered harm, and shareholders should pay illegally billed customers refunds of $23 million. Read the rest here.

March 15, 2007: $170 million from CPUC to PG&E shareholders: The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) today granted Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) a rate increase of $213 million per year, despite strenuous objections from consumer groups that believe PG&E rates are already much too high. "The CPUC could have reduced rates simply by saying PG&E shareholders don't need another $43 million per year on top of rates that are already among the highest in the nation," said Bob Finkelstein, TURN's executive director. "Instead they opted to let the utility siphon tens of millions more each year out of consumers' pockets, knowing these amounts flow directly to shareholders." Read the rest here.

October 31, 2005: Deregulated companies’ tricks cost Californians billions: Sempra Energy goes on trial for manipulating CA electricity prices to cause the energy crisis: Sempra, the parent company of Southern California Gas and SDG&E, is defending itself against anti-trust charges that could cost the company as much as $23 billion.Sempra is accused by California and a coalition of local governments of conspiring to manipulate the gas market in order to drive up prices. Read more here.

December 18, 2000: Backroom Utility Deal Between CPUC and PG&E: Published reports have revealed that state officials are negotiating rate increases with the utilities absent any notice to the public or opportunity for public comment. "This is a gross violation of basic concepts of due process and fair play. If not halted, these discussions could lead to a California Public Utilities Commission decision permitting rate increases as early as this Thursday," said Nettie Hoge, executive director of TURN, The Utility Reform Network. Hoge called on the governor and CPUC president Loretta Lynch to immediately halt private discussions with the utilities and comply with laws requiring public notice and comment. "Utility rates in this state are supposed to be determined via a public process, not through backroom deals between politicians and the utilities," Hoge stated. Read more here.

Apparently, CPUC has a documented history of giving the Big Utilities substantial leeway to force California consumers to fork over more of what’s in their wallet to PG&E, Sempra, and Edison. And while all this is going on, the Big Utilities honestly think (or desperately hope?) that if they greenwash their campaign against Proposition 7 by throwing the names and faces of environmentalists (that they fund) at voters, then CA will overlook the rate hikes, rip-offs, and the environmental degradation that the Big Utilities are most appropriately known for. But this really just harkens back to the point I made in my last post. When you have politically/financially interested parties vs. disinterested Nobel Laureate-winning physicists and scientists, who do you go with? Call me crazy, but I’m still going with the scientists.

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