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SSJID again says it will keep discount for poor folks

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POSTED September 16, 2014 1:44 a.m.

South San Joaquin Irrigation District has reaffirmed its commitment in legal documents to pay all state-required fees to local governments, retain rate breaks for qualifying low- households, and underwrite programs that promote agency efficient and energy conservation.

The board’s repeat decision last week to keep the cities of Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon whole as well as San Joaquin County while at the same time those agencies benefit from 15 percent lower power bills was a prelude to Monday’s 9 a.m. Local Area Formation Commission workshop on the sixth floor of the county administration center in downtown Stockton at 44 N. San Joaquin St..

The workshop will cover the SSJID municipal, service review plan. Once that is approved, the SSJID board can then ask LAFCo to set a date for a hearing on their request to enter the retail power business in a bid to reduce rates by 15 percent across the board in Manteca, Ripon, Escalon, and surrounding farmland.

It’s been 61 months since SSJID’s current application to enter the retail power sales was received by LAFCo.

LAFCo staff have repeatedly delayed moving the SSJID request forward as PG&E keeps making new objections.

Since SSJID would be a public utility, they are not required by state law or the California Punic Utilities Commission to pay franchise fees to government agencies within their jurisdiction, provide energy conservation programs for its customers or offer discount rates for low-income households.

The SSJID board, though, on several occasions including last week adopted legal documents making it clear they will abide by the same rules regarding government payments and reduced rates for low-income customers as PG&E and other for-profit utilities must do.

That means everyone — including low-income households — would enjoy a 15 percent reduction on their current PG&E electric bills if SSJID is allowed to become their providers.

The CPUC requires 4 percent set aside of gross retail electric revenue to go to such programs. An analysis by SSJID indicated the number of low income households would easily exceed the 4 percent set aside. The district though will honor all qualifying low-income household reduced rates.

Manteca currently receives $1.4 million annually in franchise fees paid by PG&E for gas and electric lines as well as Comcast for cable TV lines. The electric franchise fees are roughly $500,000.

A 15 percent reduction on the city’s municipal power bill could easily save the city more than $120,000 or more than enough to hire an additional police officer.

Overall, economists hired by SSJID estimates a 15 percent reduction in power rates would interject $12 million more into the economies of Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon.

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