On February 4, 2010, the California Public Utilities Commission held its regularly-scheduled agenda meeting. The agenda was light; the only matter discussed was the institution of a rulemaking proceeding to find ways to decrease the growing number of for electric and gas utility service disconnections made for non-payment of charges.
The meeting began with the swearing-in of newly-appointed Commissioner Nancy E. Ryan by President Peevey. Commissioner Ryan is an economist with expertise in energy markets, climate change policy, and the public health and ecological impacts of energy production. Since February 2009, she has served as Deputy Executive Director for Policy at the Commission. She joined the Commission in January 2006 as President Peevey’s Chief Energy Advisor and served as his Chief of Staff from April 2007 to February 2009. During her remarks, Commissioner Ryan stated she was excited to take on her new position and thanked President Peevey and Commissioner Gruenich for having encouraged her to join the Commission.
REGULAR AND CONSENT AGENDA ITEMS
- Order Instituting Rulemaking on the Commission’s Own Motion to Address the Issue of Customers’ Electric and Natural Gas Service Disconnection (Item 26, adopted on regular agenda) – The Commission opened a new proceeding to consider ways to reduce the number of natural gas and electric utility residential customer disconnections made due to nonpayment of charges. As interim measures, the order requires the four largest investor-owned utilities (“IOUs”) to provide customers with an option to pay overdue charges over a three-month period and forbids the IOUs from requiring customers who had previously established credit from paying additional deposits for either slow-payment/no-payment of bills or following a disconnection. The focus of the proceeding, however, will be on customer notification and education efforts. The Commissioners who addressed this item at the meeting expressed their disappointment that the IOUs had not voluntarily adopted these two measures at result of workshops last month in light of the critical need to assist growing numbers of ratepayers facing economic challenges. The draft decision upon which the Commission voted is available here.
- Structural Changes to Existing Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program Advisory Board Charters Pursuant to Resolution T-17212 (Item 9, adopted on consent agenda) – This resolution adopts interim and permanent charters to implement the merger of the California Relay Service Advisory Committee into the Telecommunications Access for the Deaf and Disabled Administrative Committee and to make various changes to the structure and operation of the Administrative Committee. A recent draft of the resolution is available here.
- Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency Request for Certification as the 2-1-1 Service Provider for Shasta County (Item 14, adopted on consent agenda) – This resolution adopts the request of the Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency to become the 2-1-1 provider for Shasta County. A recent draft of the resolution is available here.
- Southern California Edison Company’s Request to Lease Thirty “Dark Fiber” Lines (Item 15, adopted on consent agenda) – This resolution grants the request of Southern California Edison to lease thirty “dark fiber” lines to New Cingular Wireless LLC. A recent draft of the resolution is available here.
SIGNIFICANT HELD AND WITHDRAWN ITEMS
- Determination of Ratemaking Treatment for Rural Telephone Bank Stock Redemption Proceeds (Item 4, held until February 25, 2010) – This Proposed Decision would resolve the Small LECs’ application, prompted by previous Commission directives in certain Small LEC rate cases, to address “gain on sale” implications of the recent stock redemption associated with the dissolution of the Rural Telephone Bank. The Proposed Decisions issued in this proceeding would depart from the Commission’s “gain on sale” rules by allocating the full value of redeemed RTB stock to ratepayers, including the value of patronage shares received by RTB borrowers. An updated Proposed Decision made available the day before the February 4, 2010, Commission meeting is available here.
- Comments to be Filed in Response to FCC Inquiry Regarding Rural and Urban Rates, and Petition for Rulemaking Proposing New Rules for Universal Service High-Cost Support (Item 30, withdrawn) – In Qwest Communications International, Inc. v. FCC, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit remanded the FCC’s decision providing high-cost universal service support to non-rural carriers. The FCC plans on issuing interim changes to the universal service support rules, and seeks comments on whether it should (1) define “reasonably comparable” rural and urban rates in terms of rates for bundled local and long distance services, and/or (2) require carriers to certify that they offer such bundled local and long distance services at reasonably comparable rates for rural and urban zones. In the withdrawn item, the Commission’s Legal Staff had sought authority to prepare comments addressing issues raised in the public notice.
- Resolution Terminating Public Policy Payphone Program (Item 11, held to 2/25/10) – This Draft Resolution would terminate the Commission’s Public Policy Payphone Program (PPPP). The goal of the original PPPP was to provide public payphones in the interest of public health, safety, and welfare in locations where there would otherwise not be a payphone, and the Commission would subsidize 50% of related monthly recurring charges. Despite outreach and press releases, the Commission received only one applicatio. This Draft Resolution would terminate the PPPP. A copy of the Final Resolution is available here.
NOTES AND COMMISSIONER REPORTS
- Commissioner Grueneich Adds Matthew Tisdale to Staff – Commissioner Grueneich announced that Matthew Tisdale had joined her staff as a new advisor. Mr. Tisdale was formerly with the Division of Ratepayer Advocates. Mr. Tisdale will be focusing on energy efficiency issues.
- Commissioner Ryan Names Andrew Campbell as Advisor – Commissioner Ryan announced the first appointment to her staff. Andrew Campbell, formerly an advisor to Commissioner Chong, will serve as Commissioner Ryan’s energy advisor and will work with the new commissioner to form the rest of her advisory staff.