East County News Service
September 30, 2015 (San Diego)—Utility ratepayer attorneys Mike Aguirre and Maria Severson have filed a federal appeal in the Ninth District court on behalf of Citizens Oversight. The suit challenges the power of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which it accuses of “utility bill hijacking.”
A press release issued by Aguirre and Severson states the Governor Jerry Brown has appointed “powerful utility lobbyists to run the Commission. Working together with utility executives, these appointees have hijacked the long-standing practice of holding public rate-setting hearings in favor of secret rate-setting meetings with top utility executives.”
The appeal asks the court to compel CPUC to convene public hearings as required by law, and to rule that forcing ratepayers to endure a rate hike without due process is an unconstitutional taking without just compensation.
In the case of San Onofre, the commission has approved what the suit contends is an unlawfully negotiated and publicly funded bailout of Southern California Edison that will cost the average rate-payer about $1,600 per electric meter, [source] plus, additional ongoing charges.
"Our electric bills have been hijacked," says Severson. She argues that Edison’s stockholders, not the ratepayers should be liable for the costs associated with San Onofre, which failed as the result of Edison’s reckless violations of Nuclear Regulatory Commission safety measures.
Without corrective action by higher courts, the California Public Utilities Commission will continue to impose rate increases on utility customers that are forged in secret back-room deals, the attorneys contend.
The appeal before a three-judge Federal Court argues that electric bill hijacking violates California law, the Bill of Rights, and most importantly, the Johnson Act, which was passed by Congress to protect the public from predatory monopoly utilities.