CPUC tries to establish sole jurisdiction over utilities in opt-out proceeding

The CPUC is attempting to establish a legal precedent that it has sole authority over utilities and the public in utility matters.

California law clearly states that the CPUC shares authority with other entities in regulating the utilities, but the Proposed Decision for the Smart Meter opt-out proceeding boldly asserts pre-eminent CPUC power. Section 6, Community Opt-Out, pages 47-55, in convoluted and manipulative fashion, ignores existing law and the California Constitution.

There are other problems with this proposed decision, including opt-out fees and refusing commercial and community opt-outs. But the biggest issue is whether the CPUC has the authority to make these decisions in the first place and force the public to comply with its programs.

That issue goes far beyond the Smart Meter issue and affects all utility matters in California – transmission corridors, power plants, nuclear reactors, wind and solar farms, transportation corridors, etc..

The proposed decisions are here —

Smart Meter Opt-Out proceedings 11-03-014, 11-03-015, 11-07-020 – Proposed Decisions
http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/SearchRes.aspx?docformat=ALL&docid=131173965
http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/SearchRes.aspx?docformat=ALL&docid=131173964
http://emfsafetynetwork.org/cpuc-give-millions-more-to-pge-and-continue-smart-meter-extortion-fees/ — Overview

Here’s what California law states (full text below):

Public Utilities Code Section 2901-2906 and Section 761.3d are very clear about the powers of municipal corporations, and local, state and federal agencies to regulate, supervise, and set rules and deadlines over utility companies, especially on matters of public health and safety. The California Constitution also states that all cities have power to determine the terms of franchise agreements, and cities incorporated by Oct. 10, 1911 have greater powers to police utilities.

Also, the Bagley-Keene Act (Section 11120) states

The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them.

Ultimately, the people hold power both over utility companies and over the CPUC.

However, these laws are being ignored, misstated, or quoted out of context to provide an illusion of sole jurisdiction for the CPUC.

The CPUC has barred consideration or investigation of overbilling, accuracy, and health and safety issues from Smart Meter proceedings. Only by doing so, and by claiming that it has sole jurisdiction over utilities, can it continue to promote the Smart Meter program. It follows this logic with other utility issues in the state. And utility companies loudly chorus that the CPUC, its captured agency, is the only entity that can control them.

Under California Public Utilities Code, the CPUC must fix problems caused by utility companies but only if it holds a hearing—Section 761. It does not require the CPUC to hold hearings. I addressed this in my report[i] with a legislative remedy that the CPUC be required to investigate problems immediately upon a certain threshold of complaints.

The deadline for intervenor comments is today, Nov. 18, but the public and public advocacy organizations can comment until a decision is reached – as early as December 4.

Email public.advisor@cpuc.ca.gov.

Please send a copy of comments to your state representatives as well as the Chairman of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee 3, Richard Bloom (Chief of Staff Sean MacNeil sean.macneil@asm.ca.gov). That subcommittee has been the only state group that has called the PUC on the carpet.

You can also send a copy of comments to Administrative Law Judge Amy Yip-Kikugawa: ayk@cpuc.ca.gov and to Chairman Michael Peevey’s advisor Manisha Lakhanpal: m12@cpuc.ca.gov .

Unfortunately, Gov. Jerry Brown’s close ties to PG&E and Attorney General Kamala Harris’ teamwork make them unresponsive to PUC corruption. State laws will have to be changed on the CPUC and on government officials to mandate that they protect the public.

California law

California Public Utilities Code
SECTION 2901-2906

  1. Any municipal corporation may retain or surrender to the commission the powers of control vested in it to supervise and regulate the relationship between any one or more classes of public utilities, and their present or prospective customers, consumers, or patrons, and, if it has retained such powers over any class of public utilities, may thereafter surrender such powers to the commission.
  2. This chapter shall not be construed to authorize any municipal corporation to surrender to the commission its powers of control to supervise and regulate the relationship between a public utility and the general public in matters affecting the health, convenience, and safety of the general public, including matters such as the use and repair of public streets by any public utility, the location of the poles, wires, mains, or conduits of any public utility, on, under, or above any public streets, and the speed of common carriers operating within the limits of the municipal corporation.
  3. Unless the context otherwise requires, the definitions and general provisions set forth in this article govern the construction of this chapter.
  4. “Municipal corporation” means a city and county or incorporated city.
  5. “Legislative body” means the board of supervisors, municipal council, commission, or other legislative or governing body of a municipal corporation.
  6. “Powers of control” means all powers of control vested in a municipal corporation to supervise and regulate (a) the relationship between public utilities and their present or prospective customers, consumers, or patrons. The term does not include the powers of control vested in any municipal corporation to supervise and regulate the relationship between such public utilities and the general public in matters affecting the health, convenience, and safety of the general public, including matters such as the use and repair of public streets by any public utility, the location of the poles, wires, mains, or conduits of any public utility, on, under, or above any public streets, and (b) the speed of common carriers operating within the limits of the municipal corporation.

California Public Utilities Code
SECTION 761
Whenever the commission, after a hearing, finds that the rules, practices, equipment, appliances, facilities, or service of any public utility, or the methods of manufacture, distribution, transmission, storage, or supply employed by it, are unjust, unreasonable, unsafe, improper, inadequate, or insufficient, the commission shall determine and, by order or rule, fix the rules, practices, equipment, appliances, facilities, service, or methods to be observed, furnished, constructed, enforced, or employed. The commission shall prescribe rules for the performance of any service or the furnishing of any commodity of the character furnished or supplied by any public utility, and, on proper demand and tender of rates, such public utility shall furnish such commodity or render such service within the time and upon the conditions provided in such rules. (Section 761)

SECTION 761.3d:
Nothing in this section shall result in the modification, delay, or abrogation of any deadline, standard, rule, or regulation adopted by a federal, state, or local agency for the purposes of protecting public health or the environment, including, but not limited to, any requirements imposed by the State Air Resources Board or by an air pollution control district or an air quality management district pursuant to Division 26 (commencing with Section 39000) of the Health and Safety Code.

California Constitution
ARTICLE 12, SECTION 8
A city, county, or other public body may not regulate matters over which the Legislature grants regulatory power to the Commission. This section does not affect power over public utilities relating to the making and enforcement of police, sanitary, and other regulations concerning municipal affairs pursuant to a city charter existing on October 10, 1911, unless that power has been revoked by the city’s electors, or the right of any city to grant franchises for public utilities or other businesses on terms, conditions, and in the manner prescribed by law.

Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act
Section 11120:
It is the public policy of this state that public agencies exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business and the proceedings of public agencies be conducted openly so that the public may remain informed. In enacting this article the Legislature finds and declares that it is the intent of the law that actions of state agencies be taken openly and that their deliberation be conducted openly. The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created. This article shall be known and may be cited as the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act.

For a fuller coverage of federal and state legal violations:
“Analysis: Smart Meter and Smart Grid Problems – Legislative Proposal, December 2012”
https://smartmeterharm.org/2012/12/14/report-smart-meter-problems-dec-2012/

 

[i] www.smartmeterharm.org

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