CONSUMER AFFAIRS JOURNALIST LAUNCHES PETITION DRIVE TO PROTECT RATEPAYERS AS SDG&E RATE HIKE TAKES EFFECT SEPT. 1

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By Miriam Raftery

August 31, 2013 (San Diego) – On September 1st, SDG&E customers will see rate hikes on their bills of up to 12% for higher energy users.  Now John Mattes, a consumer watchdog journalist and attorney, has launched a petition drive calling on public officials to make SDG&E’s  shareholders, not ratepayers, pay for the corporation’s mistakes at San  Onofre.  You can view and sign the petition here:  http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/dont-make-us-pay-for/

The petition will be delivered to San Diego’s Mayor and City Attorney, as well as the Chairman of the San Diego Board of Supervisors.  It asks officials to take action by intervening on behalf of ratepayers with state regulators at the Public Utilities Commission, which approved the rate hike.

“Utilities companies want California homeowners to pick up the tab for their mistakes at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station,” the petition reads. “ With the plant now closed, these companies are trying to pass on to consumers hundreds of millions of dollars in costs for the ill-fated repairs. We are asking elected city and county officials to intervene with regulators on our behalf. These companies should be held accountable. Customers should not have to pay for corporate mistakes.”

The petition currently has over 2,100 signatures and needs 3,000 to reach its goal.

SDG&E currently  has the highest electricity rates in the nation, notes Mattes, adding that calling for fairness to ratepayers should attract bipartisan support.

According to a letter from SDG&E Chairman and CEO Jesse Knight to ratepayers, here's what you can expect once rate hikes take effect: 

"Based on your historical energy use, you are likely to be affected by this increase. If your bill is typically around $100 a month, you will see an increase of about $15. If your bill is usually about $250 a month, you will see an increase of around $75," Knight said.

The petition has struck a nerve with ratepayers, judging by some of the heated comments posted.

“A privately owned public utility is not the fiduciary responsibility of its customers,” David Fisher wrote. “One of the risks of investing is the assumption of the financial responsibilities of enterprise. State regulators are expected to shield utility customers from the mistakes of utility owners, not the other way around.”

Laurie Ryan suggested inside knowledge of problems at the San Onofre nuclear facility, which has been shut down permanently by Southern California Edison.  The plant supplied power to both Edison and SDG&E customers.  “I knew a few of the guys who did the original construction—they often commented about how “off” they were from the blueprints, so I always looked at Onofre as a catastrophe waiting to happen. Good riddance.”

Jessica Barr summed up the sentiments of many ratepayers. ‘Suck it up Edison and SDG&E,” she concluded. “Pay for your mistakes and don’t take it out on the consumers stuck with your monopoly.”