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Critical call on SSJID retail power bid later this summer
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The fate of South San Joaquin Irrigation District’s bid to enter the retail power business won’t be known until the heat of summer when 100-degree days ramp up air conditioning demand to send power bills in Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon to their highest levels during the year.

The final documents needed for a San Joaquin Local Agency Formation Commission decision including a municipal service report and environmental report aren’t expected to be completed until late July or in August.

SSJID needs LAFCO approval to allow it to add retail power to its repertoire of public services that includes urban water deliveries, irrigation, and wholesale power generation. The SSJID is targeting at least a 15 percent reduction in power costs over what PG&E charges.

Tuesday’s election in which voters statewide rejected PG&E’s Proposition 16 means the district will not have to obtain a two-thirds approval from the voters following LAFCO’s decision should it allow them to enter the retail power business.

“There is no common sense in what PG&E is doing with ratepayer’s money,” SSJID General manager Jeff Shields said. “We are pleased that the people of California were able to see through PG&E’s $46.1 million smokescreen. It should be clear to PG&E now that the California constitution is not for sale. (PG&E Chief Executive officer) Peter Darbee owes the people of California an apology for this egregious assault on our Constitution and an apology to PG&E ratepayers for spending $46.1 million that came directly out of their pockets.”

SSJID is not waiting for the ability to enter the retail power business to try and reduce rates.

The SSJID was one of a handful of qualified expert witnesses that testified at California Public Utility Commission hearings against a proposed $1.01 billion PG&E rate hike that may go into effect on Jan. 1, 2011. It is the largest rate hike ever sought by PG&E. It doesn’t preclude additional rate hikes in 2011 as the $1.01 billion request pertains only to upgrading the distribution system and not the actual cost of power.

If LAFCO approves the SSJID request the next step is for SSJID to start negotiations with PG&E. If good faith negotiations don’t come to a mutually agreeable sales price, it will then be up to the courts to decide.