Claremont Insider: $35 Million Water Rate Increase

Thursday, October 16, 2008

$35 Million Water Rate Increase

They come around with the predictability of eclipses or the tides or the change of seasons. They are applications by the Golden State Water Company to the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for another RATE INCREASE. Since the water company is a regulated utility, all rate increases must be approved by the PUC.

Last month the water company sent yellow notices to all of its customers advising of yet one more bite at the rate-payers' apple:


Down in the fifth paragraph, the water company advises us that the total request for Region III, which includes Claremont, is for $35,414,600, with the bulk of it, $30,035,900 coming as a 33% increase in 2010!

Why Is This Man Smiling?

This breathtaking increase request is quite in keeping with the modus operandi of Golden State in initially asking the PUC for the moon and then settling for a few scattered comets, asteroids, and pieces of space junk. Over the years, Golden State comes in with a highball request, the wheels of the PUC grind exceedingly slow and fine, and the Commission ultimately approves an increase in the neighborhood of half what was initially requested--still, gobs and gobs of money. Enough to keep President and CEO Floyd E. Wicks in those nice suits for a long time (see photo, right).

This year the Claremont City Council approved $30,000 to pay lawyers at Best, Best and Krieger to represent the City as a participant in the rate increase application process. This process is a highly choreographed procedural minuet, and becoming a "participant" is the only way effectively to have a voice. [Reading the staff report referenced just above authored by that Candide of Claremont, Scott Carroll, would make a reader believe that the City's vaunted participation and protest single-handedly brought Golden State's water hikes to rein. The City participation was important, as it is a formal way to participate, but even in 1996, when the City was not a participant, the 56% increase request was slashed to 12%. As we recall--we could be wrong--the big deal that year was not the rate per se, but getting approval of a new rate structure with separate "meter" (fixed hookup charges), and "commodity" (water usage) rates. Anyway, post hoc ergo propter hoc, Scott.]

All of which makes us wonder, whatever became of the fanciful idea of the City purchasing the water company? We haven't heard about it for a long, long time, and it is a remnant from the bad old days of Glenn Southard, giving you some idea of how long it has been floating around. Did the City come face to face with financial reality on this idea? This is how the world ends, not with a whim but with a banker.

More on all of this as it unfolds in the community. For now, in case you lost yours, here is the notice sent last month--or perhaps it was August--by Golden State Water (click on images to enlarge:

(If links below appear broken, try again later. The PUC appears not to have paid its electric bill.)
(Links seem to be working again. Guess Arnie sold those short-term bonds)

Also, if you are really a glutton for punishment of the worst sort, here is a link to the California Public Utilities Commission file on the July 1, 2008 Golden State Water Company rate increase.

The 70-page rate increase application is here.

The City's August 7 protest is here (4 pages).