Wednesday, 5 September 2012

CPUC doesn't seem to know the meaning of "service"

Six months ago PG&E tried to use a regulatory shortcut called an “Advice Letter” to claim the right to install transceivers and antennae for its own commercial mesh data network in every PG&E electric meter, without owning or paying for those siting rights, and to surcharge the electric bill for any home where PG&E wasn’t allowed entry to install a “SmartMeter”.

Naturally, I protested this attempted theft by PG&E of valuable rights to place antennas inside my house. If PG&E succeeded, what would be next? Would AT&T claim the right to replace the the telephone network interface device on the wall of my house with a cellphone antenna — without compensation or the building owner’s consent?

My protest was filed with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), a state regulatory agency that is supposed to operate with quasi-judicial administrative procedures.

But since receiving my protest, the CPUC has been anything but judicious, managing to violate its own procedural rules repeatedly. First the CPUC didn’t notice (or didn’t care) when PG&E filed a “reply” to my protest, but didn’t bother to serve with with that reply. Then the CPUC issued its own “disposition” of my protest, but didn’t bother to serve that on me either.

In the meantime, I discovered from the CPUC’s (late, incomplete) response to a request I made under the state Public Records Act that the idea of surcharging utility customers at any address where PG&E wasn’t allowed in the door to install its data network equipment actually originated with the CPUC’s staff (supposedly neutral regulators), and not with PG&E.

As is my right, I requested that the CPUC staff’s procedurally and substantively improper “disposition” be reviewed by the 5-member appointed Public Utility Commission. The CPUC’s staff tried to give themselves a “do-over”, but after I made a second request for review they finally agreed to put the matter before the full Commission, as they were required to have done as soon as I made my first request.

You’d think after its previous mistakes in failing to make sure I was properly served, the CPUC would be especially attuned to the necessity for proper service of its proposed decisions in this matter. But last month, when the CPUC’s staff proposed that the Commission uphold their dismissal of my protest, they again failed to serve me properly. Worse, a CPUC staff person filed a false certificate of service, and she and a senior CPUC lawyer refused to withdraw or correct it even after I pointed out that it was false and that I had never been properly served.

So I had to waste today preparing and filing a formal motion to strike the false certificate and the un-served proposal from the CPUC docket and the Commission’s agenda.

As of this morning, my request was item 16 on the agenda of matters scheduled to be agreed to by unanimous consent and without discussion (unless at least one Commissioner objects) at the Commission’s next meeting on Thursday morning, 13 September 2012. It’s too soon to tell whether any Commissioner will request a full discussion, or if so, whether the Commission will consider my motion, the CPUC staff’s proposed resolution, both, or neither.

I’ll be attending the CPUC meeting on Thursday. But since I’m probably considered a “party”, I’m not allowed to speak during the public comment period. Please contact me if you might be able to attend and speak to call attention to the CPUC staff’s fraud and the Commission’s premature rubber-stamping of the denial of my protest and request for review.

[Update: The CPUC blinked at the last minute, and “held” any consideration of my request (item 16 on agenda 3300) until its next meeting on 27 September 2012. Thanks to Amy O’Hair, Maya Cain, and Garril Page, who spoke (24:52-30:15 of the webcast archive) in support of my request at the meeting on September 13th. The CPUC should now serve me properly with notice of its proposal, file a new and this-time-truthful certificate of service, and allow 30 days for public comments. If it does, it will need to hold the matter until a still later meeting, perhaps in October. I don’t know if the CPUC will once again put this item on its “consent calendar” for summary adoption without debate, or if at least one Commissioner will ask to have it put it on the regular agenda for full discussion and a separate vote. And I don’t know if the CPUC will try to ignore the previous misconduct by its staff, or if it will consider my motion to correct the official record and censure the staff responsible for filing false documents along with the CPUC staff proposal to uphold the rejection of my initial protest.]

[Further update, 17 September 2012; My request for review is again on the “consent calendar” as item 5 on the agenda for the CPUC meeting scheduled for Thursday, 27 September 2012. There’s no mention on the agenda of my motion to strike the proposal, and there’s a false claim on the agenda that, “This item was mailed for Public Comment”. I’ve still received nothing in the mail. This item could still be removed from the consent calendar for full debate, or “held” for a future meeting, at any time.]

[Further update, 27 September 2012; My request for review (item 5 on the agenda) was again held at the last minute, this time until the CPUC meeting scheduled for 11 October 2012. I still haven’t been properly served, and even if I were served today, there wouldn’t be the required 30 days for public comments before the 11 October 2012 meeting.]

[Further update, 11 October 2012: My request was “held” again, this time until the CPUC meeting scheduled for 25 October 2012 in Irvine. That’s still less than 30 days away, and I still haven’t been served. My requests for CPUC public records remain unanswered. The agenda repeats the false claim, “This item was mailed for public comment.”]

[Further update, 24 October 2012: And again, for the fourth time, my protest (item 2) was held at the last minute, without explanation, from the agenda of the CPUC meeting on 25 October 2012. Now it’s scheduled for consideration on 8 November 2012. I still haven’t been served.]

Link | Posted by Edward on Wednesday, 5 September 2012, 16:40 ( 4:40 PM)

Does the commission have any jurisdictional body above it? It it funded by the Congress?

Is there a way to get it to the state Supreme Court? Somehow when the people in Maine protested, it got into a high court very quickly, did they bypass their PUC?

Lots of questions. Clearly one cannot have confidence in a corrupt commission, that is staffed by energy insiders with biases and financial conflict of interest.

How can we be represented?

Posted by: bernadette johnston, 8 September 2012, 11:01 (11:01 AM)


I have had examined a SMUD Smart Meter manufactured by Landis Lyr and the software managed by Silversprings. I typed in the model number and I tried to decipher the spec sheets regarding installation recommendation. If I read this correctly, the device is not to be located within 7.840 inches of persons. Yet SMUD installs these on the outside walls of adults', babies' and childrens' rooms. I am not a carpenter, however, standard 2x4 framing with sheetrock would not yield the required buffer space. That number 7.840 inches is not a random one. These devices were bench tested over and over again for emissions and other technical parameters. That space must be maintained in accordance with installation requirements. Could this in fact be a legal challenge to the thousands of installs that have been put on bedrooms, next to beds and cribs. I dare them to say I should just move my bed. That would be outrageous. I only give a prescriptive easement access, not a portion of my home, no matter how small.

Posted by: bernadette johnston, 8 September 2012, 20:39 ( 8:39 PM)

I believe it's a term from large animal veterinary medicine.

Posted by: John Levine, 9 September 2012, 19:47 ( 7:47 PM)

I just had an analog meter reinstalled and drafted a letter to contest the fees, who should I address the letter to?

Posted by: Mali, 6 December 2012, 09:05 ( 9:05 AM)

Mali: I'm not a lawyer, but my understanding is that you need to send a check for the disputed amount to the CPUC (which will hold it in escrow pending resolution of the dispute) and make a complaint to the CPUC that the fee is not authorized by the utility's tariff. If the utility keeps billing you a monthly opt-out fee every month, you will have to keep depositing the additional disputed amount with the CPUC each month.

The most recent CPUC compliant forms and instructions I can find are dated 2 November 2012:

Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 6 December 2012, 11:32 (11:32 AM)
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