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Here’s a shocker: CPUC says PG&E isn’t playing by the rules in Marin

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POSTED May 4, 2010 2:41 a.m.
PG&E’s corporate brass are once again doing what they do best which is not playing by the rules.

The California Public Utilities Commission informed PG&E Monday that the shenanigans the for-profit utility is pulling in Marin County to undermine the Marin Energy Authority’s (MEA) effort to provide an alternative to PG&E customers through Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) is in violation of tariffs and rules. The CPUC went a step further and told PG&E to immediately cease such actions.

This, of course, won’t faze PG&E’s brass that won’t stop at anything to protect the monopoly that feeds them the multi-million dollars bonuses based on a guaranteed rate of return of 11.45 percent imposed by the state. Just ask those in San Francisco who have twice been the victim of PG&E‘s corporate tricks in elections to form a municipal utility district. Each time the State Fair Political Practices Commission imposed hefty fines on PG&E for violating election and campaign laws. It didn’t bother PG&E. It’s just another cost of doing business running a monopoly that squeezes ratepayers.

And it fits right in with the strategy that PG&E employed when a hired gun hacked into a South San Joaquin Irrigation District computer to steal documents pertaining to the Manteca-based public agency’s bid to enter the retail power business. Of course, PG&E didn’t admit guilt though they agreed to pay SSJID $404,161 for costs the irrigation district incurrred as the result of the theft.

So what is PG&E doing these days in Marin County to earn the wrath of the CPUC?

They’re doing a number of things such as telephoning customers to ask them to opt out of the MEA. If they say “yes”, they transfer them to a PG&E service representative. The rules say the only way that a customer can opt out of the MEA service is by going through the CPUC approved measures which include calling a phone number or visiting a website that MEA has made customers aware of through mailings.

PG&E has also been using an opt out form that they have placed in newspaper advertisements as well as by knocking on doors and asking customers to do the same. They have also sent mailers that appear to look like official opt out notices trying to get customers to opt out as well.

The rules are pretty clear except, of course, to PG&E.

There is a statutory requirement that PG&E cooperate fully with any community share aggregators.

None of this should surprise anyone.

This brings us to PG&E’s pièce de résistance - Proposition 16.

PG&E not only spent millions to qualify the self-serving measure for the ballot but they’re spending $35 million on a campaign that has carefully twisted the intent around to make it appear they’re concerned about voting rights.

PG&E Chief Executive Officer Peter Darbee let it slip during a candid moment at an investors meeting that it really was about protecting PG&E’s profits. Why not just say that in their advertising blitz? There are probably thousands of people out there that would mark “yes” on their ballot to make it more difficult for anyone to ever escape PG&E’s rates that are among the highest in the country coupled with the worst reliability about large California utilities based on CPUC data.

PG&E should also mention in their Proposition 16 advertising that they’ve filed for the biggest rate increase in history - $1.01 billion effective Jan. 1, 2011. That would probably encourage more “yes” votes so PG&E can protect their monopoly.

Go ahead and trust the PG&E brass. After all, they were among the key players that convinced the legislature that deregulation would actually lower our rates. All it did was allow PG&E to sell itself to itself by setting up a holding company so they could re-depreciate assets long paid for plus raise rates.

So can we trust PG&E? Of course we can. We can trust them to do everything they need to keep the big bucks flowing  from us every time we flip on a switch.

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