Big Business Discount Could Cost Residential Gas Customers $100 Million

Consumer Groups Protest Corporate Giveaway

Contacts: Richard Holober, CFC, (650) 375-7843 (650) 307-7033 cell, Mindy Spatt, TURN, (415) 929-8876 ext. 306

(CA) The Consumer Federation of California (CFC), The Utility Reform Network (TURN),
and other consumer groups filed protests today against a proposal by
major California gas utilities that could increase residential
customers’ bills by up to $100 million dollars a year while discounting
rates for big businesses. 

The protests were filed
by consumer groups at the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC)
in response to a joint application of the San Diego Gas & Electric
Co., Southern California Gas Co. and Pacific Gas and Electric Co. to
reduce contributions by large businesses for low-income assistance and
reallocate the costs to small customers.  

If the PUC approves the
scheme, residential gas bills would have to go up to meet the current
funding levels for programs like the "California Alternative Rates for Energy"
(CARE). CARE provides a critical 20% discount on gas bills for
low-income households struggling to pay their rapidly escalating
heating bills.

In order to continue
funding low-income and energy efficiency programs at current levels,
all customers must continue to contribute equitably to the programs.
Yet, the joint application filed by the three utilities proposes to
give large, wealthy corporations like Chevron, ExxonMobil and AT&T
discounts, forcing rates up for small consumers if current programs are
to continue.

"This attempt by the
utilities to help big businesses avoid paying their fair share for a
critical program like CARE is unconscionable at a time when energy
costs continue to skyrocket," said Richard Holober, Executive Director of the CFC. "We call on the PUC to protect California’s working families and reject this application."

"The law requires ALL customers
to pay their fair share," said TURN Executive Director Mark Toney. 
"Corporations that are reaping billions in profits from our state
should not be allowed to shirk their responsibilities for urgent
programs that assist low-income Californians."

The six programs on the
table are: CARE; Energy Efficiency; Low-Income Energy Efficiency;
Research, Development, and Demonstration, Public Purpose Program CPUC
and Board of Equalization administration costs, and the Self-Generation
Incentive Program, which helps large businesses generate their own

"The utilities
application fails to provide a shred of evidence suggesting these
program costs unfairly hurt big businesses or how increasing the same
rate for residential ratepayers would be a more equitable way to pay
for them," said Holober. "The utilities have
repeatedly made the same complaints about how the CARE program costs
are allocated in the past – and have been rejected by the Commission
every time. There simply is no justification for shifting these costs."