Critics urge Davis to follow through on plant seizure threatgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Unk's Wild Wild West : One Thread
Wednesday Mar. 28, 2001
Critics urge Davis to follow through on plant seizure threat
By LESLIE GORNSTEIN THE ASSOCIATED PRESS (Published: Wednesday, March 28, 2001)
SAN FRANCISCO -- After the California Public Utilities Commission approved electricity rate increases of up to 46 percent Tuesday, commission President Loretta Lynch said, "The PUC has done all it can. We have fought back hard in every venue possible against these unjust energy prices."
The increases -- approved 5-0 by the commission -- are the biggest in California history and take effect immediately for the 25 million people served by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Southern California Edison Co.
The PUC also ordered the utilities to pay the state for billions of dollars of electricity it has bought on behalf of their customers. Just how much wasn't known; the state has not disclosed how much it has spent on various long- and short-term power contracts.
SoCal Edison and PG&E say they have lost more than $13 billion since last summer because of high wholesale electricity prices and California's 1996 deregulation law that prevents the utilities from passing those costs on to their customers.
Both have urged the PUC to raise rates. Following the PUC meeting, SoCal Edison said it will begin paying interest to bondholders after weeks of missing payments.
The rate increase will be on top of the 9 percent to 15 percent hike approved by the PUC in January, and a 10 percent increase already scheduled for next year.
Ratepayers and consumer groups branded the latest plan a rip-off.
"We are being held hostage by a handful of energy companies that, under deregulation, got control of our electricity supply," said Harvey Rosenfield, president of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights in Santa Monica. "Until our elected officials start acting to protect us, we are going to be at their mercy, at the mercy of this rip-off."
Democratic Gov. Davis has said that he opposes rate increases but that he has no power over the PUC. However, three of the PUC members are his appointees. And his aides have told lawmakers that rates have to rise.
"The PUC's action today was premature because we do not have all the appropriate financial numbers necessary to make a decision. Until we do, I cannot support any rate increase," Davis said in a statement.
The latest rate hike would mean a 42 percent increase for SoCal Edison customers and 46 percent for PG&E customers for electricity alone. Since the rates are bundled with other fees, the average price of a kilowatt hour is closer to 12.5 cents for SoCal Edison customers and 10.5 cents for PG&E customers.
The PUC meeting was disrupted at least five times by screaming protesters, and dismay over the plan was seen elsewhere.
-- Cave Man (email@example.com), March 28, 2001
Let's see now, Californians are going to have to pay per kilowatt rates that most of the rest of the country already pays.
Horrors!!! Looks like there are large portions of Cali that's smoking something if they think that power should cost as little as they are paying now.
-- something in the water over in Cali (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 28, 2001.