Friday, January 30, 2015
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

PUC Kabuki Dance extends to San Onofre, San Bruno

elias column sig

By
From page A11 | May 21, 2014 |

Kabuki Dance – an activity carried out in real life in a predictable or stylized fashion . . .  refers to an event that is designed to create the appearance of conflict or of an uncertain outcome, when in fact the actors have worked together to determine the outcome beforehand — Merriam Webster Dictionary

For many decades, the California Public Utilities Commission and the big companies it regulates – Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, Southern California Gas and San Diego Gas & Electric – have engaged in an elaborate Kabuki dance every time any company wants to raise rates.

Each time, the companies name a figure that’s preposterously high, then moan a little when the PUC knocks it back – and the consumers end up paying steadily more and more, to the point where California electric rates are the highest in the 48 contiguous states.

Now the Kabuki pattern has extended to other forms of PUC business with those same companies, including the commission’s entirely justified efforts to penalize PG&E for its negligent (word employed by federal authorities who have indicted the firm) management of natural gas pipelines and the efforts by Edison and SDG&E to have their customers foot most of the bills for their blunders at the now-shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Power Station.

As usual, the new Kabuki dances take the form of utilities asking preposterous amounts. Also as usual, they will get knocked back but, it now appears, not nearly as far as they should be. In both cases, the companies should get no new money at all for handling disasters they’ve created and trying to prevent new ones.

PG&E, for example, seeks billions of dollars in new rates plus more money to upgrade its pipeline system, when it has been dunning consumers since the 1950s for just such upgrades and maintenance, while not carrying enough of it out. No one knows just where the maintenance money went, or how much has not been spent as it should have been. The obvious decision here should be to deny any PG&E rate increase until the pipelines are up to snuff, as determined by an outside authority.

San Onofre, involving majority plant owner Edison and its minority partner SDG&E, is a bit different. This plant operated well until February 2012, when a tube leak caused the failure of costly steam generators, eventually forcing one of California’s two nuclear power plants into retirement.

Immediately, Edison and SDG&E began buying replacement electricity, much of it from “peaker” plants nearby that operate mostly at times of the greatest power use. The companies right away charged their customers not only for the usual costs associated with maintaining San Onofre and their guaranteed rate of profit on their investments in it, but also for the replacement power.

So customers were paying twice for the same power, all due to the mistakes of Edison (the plant’s manager) and its supplier, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

Edison is trying to get billions of dollars back from Mitsubishi, which designed the faulty steam generators.

The utility has essentially asked $4.7 billion from its customers for retirement costs at San Onofre, the replacement energy and continuing San Onofre costs. When Edison and SDG&E last month agreed to take about one-fourth less, there were major headlines like this incorrect one from the Los Angeles Times, “Customers would get $1.4 billion in refunds in San Onofre deal.”

Not exactly. Customers looking for such refunds on their monthly bills will be disappointed, for even Matthew Freeman, attorney for the consumer group Toward Utility Rate Normalization, who negotiated the agreement with the San Onofre partners, says funds returned to consumers would come as reduced future rates, rather than cash.

“We started out this negotiation saying the customers should not pay for replacement energy if they’re still paying San Onofre operating costs,” he said. “That principle is preserved here.” So Freeman and TURN think they got the best deal the PUC would ever approve.

But Ray Lutz, head of the El Cajon-based consumer group Citizens’ Oversight (not part of the negotiation) says that leaves the utilities with what he calls “an outright theft of $3 billion.”

“Edison was imprudent, they made a big design mistake and blew it with San Onofre,” he said. “The ratepayers should not be paying for this.”

But they likely will, just as PG&E customers figure to pay plenty for PG&E’s negligence. That’s what the kabuki dance is about, and there are no signs it will end soon.

Thomas Elias is a California author. Reach him at [email protected]

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 1 comment

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • patrickMay 21, 2014 - 5:15 pm

    MR ELIAS you nailed it right on the head. people get this info every month along with their bill. but they don't read it.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

Solano summit focuses on ways to end poverty

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Fraud among challenges immigrants face, Fairfield panelists say

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Teens earn right to perform with symphony

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
From classical to Queen: Chamber Players are ready

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Photographer has a passion for color

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Girls on the Run expands, seeks volunteers

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3

 
Cadets learn skills for future careers

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Sports aircraft company CEO recalls effort to locate in Solano

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
‘Souper Bowl’ coming to Solano County

By Bill Hicks | From Page: A4

 
SolTrans announces changes to bus routes

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A5

Fairfield police log: Jan. 28, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: Jan. 28, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

.

US / World

California’s snow survey shows far less snow than last month

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
State to move more than 2,000 inmates

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Boy Scouts reaches settlement in sex abuse case

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Doctors starting to shy away from non-vaccine advocates

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Protestors shun sister-city relationship

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
City event criticized for Mexican mafia connection

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Tech advances lower chance that driver will die in car crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Police: Family killed man over child custody dispute

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Killer says his ideas influenced family suicide

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
NASA astronaut memorial stirs memories for shuttle veteran

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

‘Anonymized’ credit card data not so anonymous, study shows

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Poll shows giant gap between what public, scientists think

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Fort Hood gunman Hasan says he wants to keep top lawyer

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Attorney General nominee wins GOP endorsements

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Ukraine: Russia-backed rebels overrun another town in east

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Simultaneous attacks in Egypt’s Sinai kill 26

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Indonesian investigators: Crashed AirAsia flown by co-pilot

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

 
Gas blast at Mexico children’s hospital, at least 2 dead

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

Families plead for lives of IS hostages as swap hopes fade

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Deadly San Francisco blaze spurs look at fire alarms

By T. Burt McNaughton | From Page: A12 | Gallery

California meets judges’ prison crowding goal 1 year early

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

 
.

Opinion

Editorial Cartoon: Jan. 30, 2015

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
 
Left’s missteps show themselves – given time

By Bud Stevenson | From Page: A11

Root of US political paralysis: Intolerance

By Clive Crook | From Page: A11

 
.

Living

Today in History: Jan. 30, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Jan. 30, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

My cousin’s 14-year-old son sleeps in the same bed as his grandma

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

 
Horoscopes: Jan. 30, 2015

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

Week in preview Jan. 30 through Feb. 5, 2015

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
Musician Geezer Butler arrested in Death Valley altercation

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Lil Wayne sues mentor’s record label for $51M, seeking split

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Jim Parsons to play God in Broadway’s ‘An Act of God’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande to pay tribute to Stevie Wonder

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Review: A tired gimmick weakens thriller ‘Project Almanac’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

‘The Thorn Birds’ author Colleen McCullough dies at age 77

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Hilary Duff, George Lopez help in search for stolen dog

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Justin Bieber apologizes for bad behavior in online video

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
 
Bernie Mac widow drops malpractice lawsuit against doctor

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Entertainment Calendar: Jan. 30, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: B4

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Desert stars: Celebs converge on Phoenix for Super Bowl 49

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
.

Sports

Serena aims for 19th major in Aussie final vs. Sharapova

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
Marshawn Lynch talks about why he doesn’t talk to the media

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
Vanden boys pull away from feisty Fairfield 86-66

By Brian Arnold | From Page: B7

Gronkowski and Chancellor make for must-see Super Bowl matchup

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
This date in sports history for Jan. 30, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

Signups for Friday, Jan. 30, 2015

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B9

 
.

Business

Chevrolet polishes its mid-size truck

By Ann M. Job | From Page: C1 | Gallery

 
Prospect of Chinese cars in US still remain years away

By The Associated Press | From Page: C2

Senate passes Keystone XL bill, battles loom

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
McDonald’s under siege as new CEO steps in

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

Obama seeks spending spike for defense, domestic

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
Who wants a bite of Hershey…jerky?

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

.

Obituaries

Anthony Neal Hunley

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Joseph Phillip Raiff

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 3 Comments

Frank Z. Perez

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Dzhon Athanc

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Gloria Elizabeth Neal

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9