CPUC COMMISSIONER RESIGNS, WARNS AGAINST UTILITIES’ EFFORTS TO “STRANGLE” ROOFTOP SOLAR AND KILL NET METERING
By Miriam Raftery
January 17, 2014 (Sacramento) – California Public Utilities Commissioner Mark J. Ferron has resigned due to his battle with cancer, the CPUC announced. In his January 16 final report, Ferron voiced concerns over utility companies’ efforts to quash rooftop solar and pressures placed on commissioners from the utility industry.
Ferron played a key role in major CPUC decisions impacting San Diego County. He was among two commissioners who recommended denial of the Quail Brush Power Plant application, finding no need for the facility at that time, though the CPUC left the door open for the applicant to resubmit the proposal this year. Ferron also authored a CPUC decision to deny SDG&E’s request to charge ratepayers for liability costs of wildfires caused by SDG&E lines or equipment.
CPUC TO HOLD HEARING IN ALPINE FEB. 5 ON NEW "STEALTH" SDG&E POWER LINE PROJECT PROPOSED IN BACKCOUNTRY
NOTE: CORRECTED DATE
View map of all energy projects in our region to see cumulative impacts and disparate impact on rural areas
Judge to Decide Whether to Have Hearings on Nearly Half Billion Dollar SDG&E Power Line Project That Opponents Say Threatens Back Country Communities
January 31, 2014 (Alpine)--The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) will hold a prehearing conference at 1:30 p.m. February 5 in the Oak Room of the Alpine Community Center, 1830 Alpine Blvd. in Alpine regarding proposed SDG&E’s Master Special Use Permit project that wouldl impact communities throughout the San Diego backcountry from Pauma Valley to Potrero (north to south) and from Ramona to Boulevard (west to east). The project is so large that SDG&E estimates construction will take about five years.
Administrative Law Judge Jean Vieth will determine if there will be full evidentiary hearings for this project or if this prehearing conference will be the only time the issues are heard. "In its application, SDG&E asked the CPUC for permission to construct this $418.5 million project without any hearings at all—their usual method of operation,"Backcountry Against Dumps, a nonprofit community organization, states in a press release.
Donna Tisdale, President of Backcountry against Dumps and Chair of the Boulevard Planning Group, voiced these concerns. “SDG&E’s project is being sold solely as fire-hardening but it appears to be an undisclosed stealth increase in carrying capacity that may directly or indirectly support numerous commercial solar projects that are already proposed along or near the route in Boulevard, Pine Valley, Descanso, Potrero, Julian, Ramona, and perhaps elsewhere that we are not yet aware of. Solar generation projects represent potential new fire ignition sources that cannot be de-energized during red flag wind events or other emergencies.”
RATEPAYERS TO RALLY WITH MESSAGE TO UTILITY COMPANIES: “YOU BREAK IT, YOU BUY IT” AT CPUC HEARING OCT. 1 ON SAN ONOFRE DECOMMISSIONING COSTS
September 29, 2013 (San Diego) – On Tuesday, October 1st, the California Public Utilities Commission will hold hearings in San Diego on who should pay for costs of the now-closed down San Onofre Nuclear Generation Stations – ratepayers or utility companies. The hearings will be held from 2-5 p.m. and again from 6:30-9;30 p.m. at the Al Bahr Shriners auditorium, 5440 Kearny Mesa, San Diego.
The Coalition to Decommission San Onofre plans to hold a press conference outside the site at 1 p.m. In the evening from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., members of the Overpass Light Brigade will be outside the hearing to draw attention to ratepayers’ concerns.
"In short, the parties seeking rehearing have made one last ditch effort to obfuscate the facts of this case in the minds of the Commission’s decision makers by throwing spaghetti against the wall to see if they can get anything to stick. Instead, all they’ve managed to do is make a big mess, which others are obligated to clean up.” -- Jonathan Knapp, CPUC attorney
By Miriam RAftery
September 12, 2013 (Live Oak Springs) – In May, we reported that the California Public Utilities Commission called for takeover of the Live Oak Springs Water Company and a million dollar fine for putting public health at risk. The CPUC iin May, asked the Superior Court to appoint a receiver to operate the water company and takeover the property, including the bankrupt Live Oak Springs Resort , where cabins and a restaurant remain closed. http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/node/13272
Live Oak Springs filed for a rehearing, claiming “wrongful and malicious” wrongdoing on the part of the CPUC and suggestion a conspiracy with the CPUC and county officials. Now CPUC attorney Jonathan Knapp with the Division of Water and Audits has issued a scathing response following the CPUC investigation: http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PublishedDocs/Efile/G000/M076/K841/76841425.PDF
September 4, 2013 (San Diego) – On the heels of a hefty rate increase that took effect September 1st, SDG&E wants ratepayers to pay for $808 million in costs of decommissioning the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Stations. Ratepayer advocates, meanwhile, say ratepayers should receive a refund for charges assessed when the nuclear facility was off-line for more than a year before being shut down permanently.
The California Public Utilities Commission will hold two hearings on Tuesday, October 1 at 2 p.m. and again at 6:30 p.m. Both will be held in the Al Bahr Shriners auditorium, 5440 Kaerny Mesa Road, San Diego 92111. The commission will consider whether or not ratepayers should be charged for the decommissioning costs, as well as whether ratepayers should receive refunds for charges assessed while the nuclear facilities were offline for more than a year before the shut-down decision.
Approval of Escondido power plant restart triggers local generation charge to ratepayers
Story and photos by Nadin Abbott
March 21, 2013 (San Diego)—East County residents savored victory following the California Public Utilities Commission’s unanimous rejection today of Quail Brush, a gas-fired power plant proposed near Mission Trails. Commissioners also rejected the Pio Pico plant in Otay Mesa, but approved refiring an Escondido power plant.
But according to Lane Sharman, co-founder with Bill Powers of the San Diego Energy District Foundation, a grassroots group trying to get community based utilities, this vote did something else. It added one more tax to your utility bill. Not only are rate payers to pay for energy distribution and transmission distribution, but now a local generation charge as well. Effectively, ratepayers will be subsidizing utilities, according to Sharman.
Commission allows repowering of Escondido plant
“Today’s rejection of Quail Brush is not only a victory for the environment. It’s a victory for our community. It sends a message that San Diego County shouldn’t rely on old-school, power plant technology and that we can accelerate our efforts to develop renewable, cleaner forms of energy, like rooftop solar and fuel cells.”—Supervisor Dianne Jacob
March 21, 2013 (San Diego) – Before a packed audience in San Diego today, the California Public Utilities Commission unanimously denied SDG&E’s requests to build Quail Brush and Pio Pico, gas-powered peaker plants near Mission Trails Regional Park and in Otay Mesa. The Commission did, however, authorize repowering of an existing but idle gas plant in Escondido.
Public meeting and vote set for March 21 on 3 local power plants, though judge denies public entry to March 20 with energy industry representatives and state regulators
By Miriam Raftery
March 18, 2013 (San Diego)— Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor today denied an injunction sought by Masada Disenhouse, who had asked the court to halt the California Public Utilities Commission from holding a closed-door, invitation-only meeting with energy industry stakeholders at the Scripps Seaside Forum in San Diego on Wednesday, March 20.
SUIT FILED TO STOP CLOSED-DOOR PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION MEETING WITH ENERGY COMPANIES IN SAN DIEGO
By Miriam Raftery
March 13, 2013 (San Diego)—The law firm of former City Attorney Mike Aguirre has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Masada Disenhouse seeking an injunction to halt the California Public Utilities Commission from holding a closed-door , invitation-only meeting with energy industry stakeholders at the Scripps Seaside Forum in San Diego on March 20. Disenhouse asked to attend, but her name was removed from the list.
“California Government Code section 11123 requires that all meetings of a state body shall be open and public, and all persons shall be permitted to attend any meeting of a state body,” the lawsuit states. The suit further notes that Government Code section 11120 requires that “proceedings of public agencies be conducted openly so that the people may be informed.”
March 7, 2013--(San Diego’s East County)--East County Roundup highlights top stories of interest to East County and San Diego’s inland regions, published in other media. This week’s top “Roundup” headlines include:
- San Diego-based air traffic control errors soar (U-T San Diego)
- Rising permitting fees driving up housing prices in East County (EC Californian)
- Manzanita health study (The Alpine Sun)
- SD’s Share of Federal Homelessness Funding Doesn’t Add Up (Voice of San Diego)
- San Diego City Council To Consider $600K Settlement Over 2011 Blackout ( KPBS)
- Mayor recommends funding of homeless shelter, public restrooms (SD CityBeat)
- Lakeside residents use Facebook for neighborhood watch (Fox)
- Ramona utility demands big money from ratepayers (10 News)
- Blackbird foot malady poses mystery (U—T San Diego)
- Cassandra Steppat Crowned Miss La Mesa, City’s First Title-Holder of Color (La Mesa Patch)
- Call to action: Master plan threatens historic spring house at Collier Park: (La Mesa Today)
- Former parks employee fined by ethics commission (Sacramento Bee)
- New bill would separate reform CPUC hierarchy (Sacramento Bee)
- Republican leaders emphasize Latino candidates (Sacramento Bee)
Read more for excerpts and links to full stories.
SAN DIEGO COUNTY TAXPAYER ASSOCIATION PUSH FOR QUAIL BRUSH GAS POWER PLANT FUELS IRE: OPPONENTS SAY PLANT IS A BOONDOGGLE THAT WILL BE COSTLY FOR TAXPAYERS
“The danger is that consumers will be required to pay for an expensive gas-fired plant they don’t’ need now or in the future.” – The Utility Reform Network
By Miriam Raftery
February 24, 2013 (San Diego) – Why is the San Diego County Taxpayers Association (SDCTA) pushing for a fossil fuel power plant that many authoritative sources indicate is not needed and will prove costly to taxpayers?
In a letter sent February 20, 2013 to the California Public Utilities Commission, Lani Lutar, president and chief executive officer of the SDTCA, urged the Commission to postpone a decision on the Quail Brush gas-fired power plant near Mission Trails Regional Park, until after the California Energy Commission has completed its examination of the project.
Update February 13: The CPUC has postponed its decisions until February 28. This is the fourth delay on the controversial projects.
February 12, 2013 (San Diego)—The California Public Utilities Commission is expected to decide this Wednesday, February 13 on whether or not to approve three gas-powered “peaker” plants in San Diego County, including Quail Brush near Mission Trails, as well as facilities in Otay and Escondido. The meeting will be held in San Francisco at 9 a.m.
If you wish to send a letter to the CPUC, Save Mission Trails has information posted here.
January 24, 2013--(San Diego’s East County)--East County Roundup highlights top stories of interest to East County and San Diego’s inland regions, published in other media. This week’s top “Roundup” headlines include:
- ACLU rips Grossmont Union High School District over lack of English learner services (Lemon Grove Patch)
- Help ID suspects in two armed robbers at Santee ATMs (Santee Patch)
- La Mesa Earns ‘F’ for Its Tobacco Policies (La Mesa Patch)
- La Mesa facing $1 million fine for sewage overflows in 2010 storm (La Mesa Patch)
- City Seeks Federal Trial in Ray Lutz Lawsuit Arising from Occupy San Diego (La Mesa Patch)
- Boulevard Project Awaits SANDAG Grant (La Mesa Today)
- New Commuter Airline To Fly Between San Diego, Imperial County (KPBS)
- Gillespie Field Airport to Expand, Council Talks 'Santee Aerotropolis' (Santee Patch)
- California sees a revenue bump after tax changes (Sacramento Bee)
- New proposal would lower voter threshold for police, fire taxes (Sacramento Bee)
- California awarded $674M to build health exchange (Sacramento Bee)
- Report: CPUC budget riddled with errors (Sacramento Bee)
- Court: Calif. lawmakers violated law to help Brown (Sacramento Bee)
Read more for excerpts and links to full stories.
By Miriam Raftery
Photo by Jim Pelley (red-tailed hawk at Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility)
January 20, 2013 (San Diego) – Wind power is now the second largest contributor to “green” energy generation in California, with 75,000 Gigawatts produced to date. California is on track to meet its ambitious target for a 33% renewable portfolio by 2020, according to Karen Douglas, Chairman of the California Energy Commission. (CEC). But at what cost to wildlife and the environment?
Balancing environmental concerns vs. the quest to build mega-energy projects to address climate change is a key challenge facing the wind industry--and a hot topic during a panel titled "Building WInd in the West: Overcoming Siting Issues" at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) conference in San Diego last week.
Douglas’ statement was read by a moderator, due to a last-minute conflict in Sacramento that prevented her attendance. Douglas also addressed the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) covering 22 million acres, calling for streamlining of permits to enable development of energy projects including 200,000 to 350,000 acres in San Diego and Imperial Counties.
January 19, 2013 (Santee) – The California Public Utilities Commission is expected to soon hold a hearing on its proposed decision finding that Quail Brush and Pio Pico gas-fired power plants are not needed.
A letter from Preserve Wild Santee states that the CPUC decision has twice been delayed due to “industry lobbying behind closed doors.” Preserve Wild Santee, an environmental group that has lobbied against the power plants, now asks citizens to write to Governor Jerry Brown and ask him to speak out for the public interest and prevent SDG&E/Congentrix from obtaining a decision that would allow “another ratepayer rip-off.”
December 29, 2012 (San Diego)—A federal lawsuit has been filed by Celeste Deborah Cooney, who alleges that radiation from a bank of smart meters left her unable to reside in her home. Defendants in the suit include the SDG&E, the State of California, Attorney General Kamala Harris, California Public Utilities chairman Mi chael Peevey, and Itron Inc., manufacturer of smart meters used in San Diego.
Cooney, a former bank vice president in Massachusetts, moved to San Diego to pursue a new career as a musician. She performed at prominent locations including the Queen Mary and the Ritz Carlton. But in April 2011, she developed a ringing in her ears, a “shock to her heart”, numbness, chest pain, heart palpitations and sleep problems that she attributes to a bank of smart meters at an apartment complex near her home in La Jolla.
CPUC ACCUSED OF VIOLATING BROWN ACT AND DUE PROCESS: FAILED TO NOTIFY PARTIES OF NEW PROPOSAL FOR MEETING TOMRROW ON SDG&E PLAN TO CHARGE RATEPAYERS FOR WILDFIRE COSTS
By Miriam Raftery
December 19, 2012 (San Diego) – Why did the California Public Utilities Commission fail to notify parties that it plans to hear a drastically revised alternate decision at tomorrow’s meeting on SDG&E’s proposed Wildfire Expense Balancing Account (WEBA)?
The new version, written by Commissioner Timothy Simon, would allow SDG&E to charge ratepayers not only for certain uninsured costs of future wildfires caused by its lines, but also appears to now include the 2007 wildfires as well—a shift that has outraged fire survivors. (See pages 23 and 28 at link above.) The draft contains numerous other changes from an earlier alternate decision penned by Simon, as well as a separate alternate decision penned previously by Commissioner Maribeth Bushey, as ECM reported earlier.
Former City Attorney Mike Aguirre, representing fire victim Ruth Henricks, sent an e-mail tonight to the CPUC objecting to any discussion or consideration of the new alternative decision on grounds that it violates the Brown Act due to failure to give proper notice, as well as collective concurrence outside a properly noticed meeting. He also alleges violation of due process.
December 6, 2012 (San Diego's East County)--County Supervisor Dianne Jacob is again asking the California Public Utilities Commission to reject an attempt by San Diego Gas & Electric to bill its customers for the uninsured cost of the region’s 2007 wildfires and any future wildfire caused by the utility.
“I remain outraged at SDG&E’s incessant attempt to slap ratepayers with a massive invoice for the 2007 wildfires that scorched hundreds of thousands of acres in rural San Diego County,” Jacob wrote today in a letter to CPUC President Michael Peevey. “The notion that SDG&E cannot afford the costs of these fires is nonsense.”
READER'S EDITORIAL: SDG&E BYPASSES FOREST SERVICE; PERMIT REQUEST COULD SIGNAL A CLANDESTINE EXPANSION OF SUNRISE POWERLINK
Stealth project in Cleveland National Forest could cost taxpayers $1 billion; public has just 30 days to comment
By Cindy Buxton, Chair of the Forest Committee, Sierra Club San Diego Chapter
October 23, 2012 (San Diego’s East County)--Late last week, SDG&E filed a permit request with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and sent an announcement to several local residents of a replacement project for five 69 kV lines which currently circle the county at the end of last week and filed the project with the CPUC. http://www.sdge.com/regulatory-filing/3792/application-sdge-permit-construct-cleveland-national-forest-power-line
These lines traverse miles of Cleveland National Forest. Unlike the switching out of wood to steel poles that we have heard about for some time, oddly, they did not tell the Cleveland National Forest about their plans.
PLEASE review the link above and send comments to the CPUC. We have a scant 30 days to turn this around and expose SDG&E for not only gaffing off environmental quality, but probably far more important this time they are side stepping basic civil rights. Tell the CPUC they must respect the US Forest Service planning!
CPUC ISSUES CONFLICTING DRAFT DECISIONS ON WHETHER SDG&E MAY CHARGE CA RATEPAYERS FOR WILDFIRES CAUSED BY ITS POWER LINES
By Miriam Raftery
October 20, 2012 (San Diego)—Should SDG&E be allowed to charge ratepayers for the 2007 wildfires that it caused – as well as damage from any future fires? The utility has sought to set up a ““Wildfire Expense Balancing Account” (WEBA) that would allow it to recover its uninsured losses—regardless of whether the utility was negligent in failing to maintain its lines and equipment.
This week, two conflicting draft decisions from California Public Utilities representatives are fueling further controversy.
READER’S EDITORIAL: TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE: SDG&E FAILS TO PROVIDE MITIGATION FUNDS FOR FIRE SEASON—AFTER ENERGIZING POWERLINK AND RAISING FIRE DANGER
By Catherine Gorka, Lakeside
July 10, 2012 (Lakeside)--Many residents of the East County /back county have received a letter from the Sunrise Powerlink Fire Mitigation Grants Program telling us about the grant program.
The funds for this program should have been given out prior to the line being energized. Instead, funds if approved will not be given out till work is done, and grant money will not even be approved until the end of August -- well into high fire danger season.
By Miriam Raftery
La Mesa leader in anti-smart meter movement says plan offers relief, but does not go far enough
April 19, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – Ratepayers now have the right to have a smart meter removed from their homes—provided they pay a $75 removal fee and $10 a month fee to read their meter (for low income users, the rate is $10/removal and $5/month).
Consumers who do not yet have smart meters and are on a “delay” list will have to make clear anew that they wish to opt out, or smart meters may be installed.
Outraged? Scroll down to learn how to take action.
By Miriam Raftery
April 8, 2012 (San Diego) Updated April 10, 2012-- At the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) public meeting this week in San Diego, Administrative Law Judge Maribeth Bushey and CPUC Comissioner Timothy Simon heard from hundreds of area residents, including tearful testimony by numerous victims of the 2007 firestorms. Some held twisted burned remnants of their lost homes. Others recalled friends who perished in the flames.
But the most explosive testimony came from former City Attorney Mike Aguirre, who declared, “This decision is already made.” He then leveled accusations that the two CPUC represenstatives present, Commissioner Timothy Simon and Administrative Law Judge Maribeth Bushey, are beholden to SDG&E and subverted the legal interests of fire victims and ratepayers.
ECM EDITORIAL: CPUC SHOULD REJECT SDG&E’S SCHEME TO MAKE RATEPAYERS PAY FOR WILDFIRES THAT IT CAUSED
By Miriam Raftery, Editor
April 5, 2012 (San Diego’s East County)--When ENRON schemed to manipulate markets and defraud ratepayers, its executives went to jail. BP faces billions of dolalrs in fines for causing the Gulf Oil spill. When automobile manufacturers sold cars with dangerous defects that killed people, it was their shareholders who paid the price. A lost hunter convicted of accidentally starting the Cedar Fire with a flare gun also spent time in jail.
Why, then, should SDG&E and its publicly traded parent company, Sempra Energy, expect local ratepayers to pay for its uninsured liability costs for the wildfires that it caused, while its executives get off scott free?
CPUC TO HOLD 2 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION HEARINGS ON SDG&E REQUEST TO CHARGE RATEPAYERS FOR WILDFIRE COSTS
By Susan Brinchman
CPUC WILL HOLD HEARING IN SAN DIEGO APRIL 5 ON SDG&E REQUEST TO CHARGE RATEPAYERS FOR WILDFIRE COSTS
February 24, 2012 (San Diego)—San Diego County residents will finally have a chance to tell the California Public Utilities Commission what they think about San Diego Gas & Electric’s proposal to charge ratepayers $463.9 million for the utility’s uninsured losses due to the 2007 wildfires caused by its poorly maintained power lines.
Commissioner Timothy Alan Simon will hold a public participation hearing on April 5 from 4-9 p.m. at the Al Bar Shriner Auditorium , 4330 Kearny Mesa Road in San Diego.
The announcement follows a February 21, 2012 “Turko Files” KUSI TV investigative report which revealed over a dozen private meetings in which SDG&E executives wined and dined CPUC Commissioner Simon, who is acting as a judge on this matter: http://www.kusi.com/story/16988213/almost-anything-goes.
A local elected official says SDG&E installations of smart meters are occurring at homes on opt-out list
By Miriam Raftery
February 7, 2012 (San Diego)—The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) this week voted to allow Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) customers to have smart meters replaced with older analog meters, for a $75 installation fee plus a monthly fee of $5 to $10, depending on income. Ratepayers must inform PG&E by May 1 if they wish to opt-out.
Commissioners have not yet ruled on whether to allow San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) or other utilities’ customers to opt out, but are expected to make a similar ruling later this month. SDG&E has proposed even higher opt-out fees of including an initial $175-$200, an exit fee of $50 and a monthly fee of $15 to cover meter readings, the North County Times reports.
By Cynthia Wharton
February 2, 2012 (Jacumba)- - The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) held a public participation hearing at the Jacumba Highland Center on January 24.
Presided over by an administrative law judge, the honorable Hallie Yacknin, this hearing provided an opportunity for interested members of the public to express their views on San Diego Gas & Electric’s (SDG&E) application for a permit to construct the East County Substation Project (ECO Substation).