Tag Archives: California Public Utilities Commission

PGE proposes to double fees for clean energy customers

Repost from the San Francisco Chronicle
[Editor:  The proposed increase is to be voted on at a Thursday, 12/17/15 meeting of the California Public Utilities Commission.  See agenda, p. 17 (Item #16, Adopting Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s 2016 Electric Procurement Cost Revenue Requirement Forecast.  The item in question is “$118.7 million for the Power Charge Indifference Amount.”  More background  and an ACTION letter opportunity at ActionNetwork.  More at Marin Independent Journal.  – RS]

High cost of breaking away

EDITORIAL – On Alternatives to PGE

The Pacific Gas and Electric Co., California’s largest utility and a longtime regulated monopoly, insists that its application to nearly double a fee for customers defecting to local clean power plans is simply a matter of market forces.

PG&E’s many critics think otherwise.

“There’s an urgency for PG&E to stifle competition,” said state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. “They’re protecting a monopoly.”

The suspicions are understandable. PG&E has the legal right to charge the fee, known as a Power Charge Indifference Adjustment.

It has to do with PG&E’s obligation to provide power to everyone in its service area as the utility of last resort. Should any customer’s alternate energy provider go out of business, PG&E still has to be able to provide for those customers — hence a fee.

“We have to undertake long-term forecasts about serving those customers in the event of their other service provider going out of business,” said PG&E spokesperson Nicole Liebelt. “It’s about ensuring that those customers won’t be left stranded.”

Liebelt said that PG&E’s longterm contract costs for serving customers are higher than current market costs, and that’s why the fee had to rise.

“The formula for calculating the fee hasn’t changed,” Liebelt said. “It’s the inputs that change every year.”

But the fee has never been as high as it is this year — the cost for each residential customer would nearly double, from $6.70 to $13 per month. In San Francisco, the proposed fee for residents looking to move to CleanPower SF would skyrocket by 100.26 percent.

Meanwhile, there’s never been a greater danger of Bay Area customers stranding PG&E.

CleanPowerSF, San Francisco’s city-run green energy program, launches in the spring. Peninsula Clean Energy, a community choice renewable energy program for San Mateo County, is scheduled to launch in August 2016.

And Marin Clean Energy and Sonoma Clean Power aren’t going anywhere.

But the administrators of these programs have all cried foul, saying that the big fee hikes threaten their business models.

We urge the California Public Utilities Commission to consider these arguments very carefully before they vote on a rate increase as early as next week.

Leno has urged the CPUC to do a public review of its methodology for how the fee should be calculated before voting on any increase above 15 percent.

Considering the fact that the CPUC has historically been incredibly deferential to PG&E’s concerns, Leno’s idea is worth considering. Electricity customers deserve choices, and local clean energy programs deserve the opportunity to compete on a level playing field.

 

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    Rail Safety bill passes out of California Senate Committee

    From an email Press Release…
    [Editor:  To read and track the bill, see LegTrak at http://www.legtrack.com/bill.html?bill=201520160SB730.  – RS]

    Rail Safety bill passes out of Senate Committee

    Bill requires minimum two–person train crews
    April 23, 2015, Contact: Monica Schmalenberger, (916) 651-4003

    SACRAMENTO—Legislation authored by Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) to protect communities along rail lines by requiring a safe crew size for trains operating within California secured passage from the Senate Labor Committee yesterday on a 4-1 vote.

    “Today’s freight trains carry extremely dangerous materials, including Bakken crude oil, pesticides and rocket fuel that may pose significant health and safety risks to communities and our environment in the case of an accident,” said Wolk. “With over 6000 miles of railroad track that crisscrosses the state through wilderness and urban areas, the potential for derailment or other accidents containing these materials is an ever present danger.”

    SB 730 prohibits a train or light engine hauling freight in California from being operated unless it has a crew consisting of at least 2 people.   It also authorizes the California Public Utilities Commission to assess civil penalties against anyone who willfully violates this prohibition.

    The California Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously last week to support SB 730, stating that requiring two-person crews is a straightforward way of ensuring two qualified crew members continue to operate freight trains in California until such time as the rules and practices of safe operation may be updated for safer operation with smaller crews.  According to the Commission, of all the industries subject to their oversight — energy, water, telecommunications, and transportation — rail accidents result in the greatest number of fatalities each year.

    “SB 730 is a great step toward enhancing safety and security on our state’s rail system by requiring two operating crew members to be on board each freight train and light engine,” said Timothy Smith, State Chairman of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen, the sponsor of SB 730,  “This is very similar to the necessity of having a pilot and co-pilot on every airliner.  The people of this great state demand this type of check and balance for the sake of rail safety and rail security for themselves and our environment.  If SB 730 becomes law, the railroad industry will move one major step closer to ensuring that those goals are realized.”

    SB 730 will next be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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      Rep. Garamendi and area leaders call for safer crude-by-rail transport

      Repost from The Benicia Herald
      [Editor:  Significant quote: “Garamendi has introduced House Bill 1679 that would prohibit the transport of North Dakota Bakken crude by train unless it has a maximum Reid vapor pressure (RVP) of 9.5 psi.”  – RS]

      Rep. Garamendi to call for safer crude-by-rail transport

      By Donna Beth Weilenman, April 7, 2015

      U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield, will join industry leaders in Davis on Wednesday in calling for the U.S. Department of Transportation to make rail delivery of crude oil safer.

      “Crude oil is or has until very recently been transported by rail through several cities in Congressman Garamendi’s 3rd Congressional District, including Davis, Dixon, Fairfield, Suisun City and Marysville,” said his media specialists, Donald Lathbury and Matthew Kravitz, in a joint statement on the news conference.

      “These routes are very close to residential communities, schools, parks, and businesses.”

      Among those joining Garamendi will be Sarah Feinberg, acting administrator for the Federal Railroad Administration, and Paul W. King, deputy director of the Office of Rail Safety at the Safety and Enforcement Division of the California Public Utilities Commission.

      Municipal and other leaders also are expected to attend, including Davis Mayor Dan Wolk, Marysville Mayor Ricky Samayoa, Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor and Solano County Supervisor Skip Thomson.

      Also expected to attend are Terry Bassett, Yolo County Transportation District executive director; Dana Carey, Yolo County office of Emergency Services manager; and Terry Schmidtbauer, assistant director of Resource Management in the Solano County Office of Emergency Services.

      Garamendi has introduced House Bill 1679 that would prohibit the transport of North Dakota Bakken crude by train unless it has a maximum Reid vapor pressure (RVP) of 9.5 psi.

      He said this is the maximum volatility permitted by the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) for crude oil futures contracts.

      By comparison, he said, a recent literature review by Sandia Labs indicates that the North Dakota Petroleum Council’s study of 152 Bakken crude samples found an average RVP of 11.7 psi and a max of 14.4 psi. A rule going into effect in North Dakota this month sets the limit at 13.7 psi.

      Garamendi and Congresswoman Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, sent a letter March 3 to the Department of Transportation in which they suggested strengthening safety improvements and asked DOT to drop any plans for weakening regulations.

      Instead, they called for stronger safety standards for crude-by-rail transportation.

      “Families living near oil-by-rail shipping lines are rightfully concerned about the safety of the trains that pass through their communities,” Garamendi said. “For that reason, I have repeatedly called on the Department of Transportation to use all the tools at their disposal to ensure that these shipments are as safe and secure as possible.

      “Every day that strong and effective rules are delayed is another day that millions of Americans, including many in my district, are put at greater risk.”

      Garamendi’s announcement will be made at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday next to the Davis Train Depot, near the corner of Second and H streets, Davis.

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        League of California Cities: Policy & Advocacy on Oil by Rail

        Repost from The League of California Cities


        Oil by Rail

        Since summer 2014, the League of California Cities has been carefully monitoring transport of crude oil and other hazardous materials by rail. Staff has researched this issue as part of an ongoing effort to educate our members, and to better advocate for improved rail safety.

        To that end, the League has taken the following actions on this issue:

        1. September 2014: Hosted a meeting on Oil by Rail, as part of the proceedings of the League’s Annual Conference in Los Angeles, to update members on recent state legislative and budgetary actions geared toward improving rail safety and improving first responder capability to address derailments involving hazardous materials
        2. September 2014: Issued a Comment Letter to the Department of Transportation on the pending federal rulemaking on rail safety improvements. In that letter, the League called for improved information flow to, and improved training for, first responders, as well as requiring improved safety features for tank cars transporting crude oil, which had already been recommended by federal regulatory agencies.
        3. October-November 2014: Held a series of educational webinars for League members (see links below). The goals of these webinars were to enhance members’ understanding of the transport of hazardous materials by rail generally, the extent of federal pre-emption of rail safety regulations, and the narrow remainder in which local governments are allowed to regulate.  Finally, staff shared with League members the League’s draft policy for safety recommendations to help guide local advocacy efforts on this issue with federal agencies and the relevant federal representatives.
        4. February 2015: Featured in Western City, the League’s monthly magazine, a cover article on this issue, entitled A Growing Risk: Oil Trains Raise Concerns by Cory Golden.
        5. February 20, 2015: The League Board of Directors approved the draft Recommendations for Improved Rail Safety as the League’s official policy.  These recommendations were based on common themes that arose in multiple state regulatory entities’ comment letters, including the Office of Emergency Services, the California Interagency Rail Safety Working Group, and the California Public Utilities Commission.
        6. March 6, 2015: League of California Cities Executive Director Chris McKenzie issued a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, submitting ten key recommendations for improving rail safety based on the League’s newly adopted policy, and requested expedited action on their implementation. The letter emphasized that the requested changes be implemented as mandates, rather than recommendations to the relevant industries, that they be accompanied by hard deadlines, and finally, that they be included in the final rule for the Safe Transportation of Crude Oil and Flammable Materials currently under consideration by federal authorities.

        Below are links to many of the items referred to above, as well as a sample letter for local jurisdictions to use in advocating to their federal elected officials and to Transportation Secretary Foxx.

        Background Materials

        Additional Resources

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