STOCKTON – Testimony has been given. Both sides have made their case.
And now, at 61 months and counting, the application of the South San Joaquin Irrigation District to enter the retail power business in a bid to lower rates 15 percent across the board in Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon may be moving forward.
On Monday the San Joaquin County Local Agency Formation Commission – LAFCo – heard at length the ins-and-outs of the municipal service review that could be up for a decision when they meet again on Oct. 9, and the comments came down to which side of the fence the speaker hoped to one day draw their power from.
Those on the SSJID side of things had nothing but good things to say about the Sacramento-based specialty consulting firm of Mintier-Harnish. Those from PG&E – they had a few issues.
With two of the commissioners set to term out after the election in November – San Joaquin County Supervisors Larry Ruhstaller and Ken Vogel – a push towards moving the matter forward is currently underway and could at least bring a decision about whether the next stage of the application currently being reviewed.
One argument is that it’s all about numbers.
The California Public Utilities Commission says that PG&E can’t lose the infrastructure required to supply retail power to residents in Manteca, Ripon and Escalon for less than $45 million without its stakeholders losing money.
But as SSJID General Manager Jeff Shields pointed out, an offer far greater – $79 million – has already been turned in.
And while he might need to resubmit the paperwork again – the PG&E Executive that took the offer initially was dismissed last week in a scandal over the pressuring of CPUC commissioners to get an administrative law judge that would be more favorable towards the company in an upcoming rate increase case – he has no problem doing so, even if those upper floors of the San Francisco high-rise aren’t where he likes to spend his time.
Shields took a shot at the executives on Beale Street when giving his comments to the LAFCo board Monday while at the same time recounting how SSJID’s attempted takeover of the utility’s system is not an attempt to put the rank-and-file out of a job. He pointed out that he has hired plenty of former PG&E employees over the 35 years he has been in his given trade.
“This is about having local control of our resources and having locally elected representation,” Shields said. “I don’t have anything against the journeymen linemen that keep PG&E operational or the other people that serve in those roles – we’ve hired those people and I’m proud of that.
“My beef starts at about the 40th floor on Beale Street.”
While PG&E has opposed the SSJID attempt from the start, the fight over the municipal service review has become especially important. The review is required to make sure SSJID is capable of not only providing irrigation and domestic water as it has done for the past 103 years plus wholesale power as it has for more than 55 years but also whether it is capable of being a retail provider.
Initially LAFCo Executive Director Jim Glaser wanted to require a separate consulting firm to commission the study that was already underway – a consulting firm that had initially given a favorable SSJID ruling but had then received the backing of PG&E – but was ultimately overruled by the five-member panel.
The voting commissioners will likely decide on Oct. 9 whether the document passes muster.
“We appreciate the opportunity to highlight the many flaws in the MSR presented by SSJID,” said a PG&E spokesperson. “We are concerned with the significant changes in the SSJID’s MSR in just a few short months and what it can mean to the reliability and affordability to our customers in Manteca, Ripon and Escalon.”
The full cost of LAFCo reviewing the MSR as well as the study itself is being picked up by SSJID – one of the only times that LAFCo has required an applying agency to perform such a task.