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Will loss of SSJID hurt other PG&E customers?

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POSTED November 29, 2009 2:17 a.m.
Can PG&E survive and make a profit without the need to raise rates on its remaining customers if it no longer can rely on monthly payments from Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon consumers?

The California Public Utilities Commission will answer that question during a meeting next month.

Their answer will be part of the puzzle the San Joaquin Local Agency Formation Commission is putting together to decide whether it is OK for the South San Joaquin Irrigation District to enter the retail power business.

The LAFCO board wants to know whether splitting the 72,000 acres that encompass SSJID territory off would be detrimental to PG&E. The agency also is conducting an independent study financed by SSJID to determine whether the numbers that the Manteca-based non-profit water and power agency provided them after years of research using two different consulting firms are accurate.

It is an answer the CPUC has provided once before. The last time the SSJID attempted to enter the retail power business, the CPUC ruled that it would have no impact of significance on the San Francisco-based for profit power giant.

The first time around LAFCO ruled against SSJID citing eminent domain concerns despite being advised by the LAFCO staff that they had no legal standing to make a ruling based on eminent domain.

PG&E led the charge to push the eminent domain issue as being an abuse of power despite the fact they routinely use it as a quasi-public agency to force property owners to do their bidding.

SSJID appealed that decision twice arguing LAFCO had no jurisdiction in the matter. The courts disagreed noting SSJID opted to go to LAFCO initially even though the agency claimed it was simply done as a courtesy.

PG&E representatives at public meetings in the South County have intentionally misconstrued the court’s ruling to say they the courts had turned down SSJID’s request to enter the retail power business inferring they were determined to be incapable of doing so.

At one point in the initial go around, PG&E spokesman Emily Barnett argued that it was unreasonable for the people in Manteca, Ripon and Escalon to force higher power rates on other customers such as those in Fresno inferring that the loss of the customers in the South County should SSJID prevail would lead to higher PG&E rates elsewhere.

The SSJID is seeking to enter the retail power business after nearly 55 years in the wholesale power sector including 53 years of a seamless supplier to PG&E in a bid to reduce power costs 15 percent across the board for consumers in Manteca, Ripon, and Lathrop.
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