Author: Wayne

SDWA shut off power for two months

SDWA shut off power for two months

Los Angeles DWP to end water and power shutoffs for low-income customers who can’t pay? Is this an improvement?

On July 29, 2016, California utility customers in San Diego County were shocked to receive a surprise bill for water and electricity, and to discover that their shutoffs had been extended for two months.

The San Diego Water Authority (SDWA) shutoff of water and electricity to customers who could not pay was the first such power-related shutoff to occur in an urban setting, the result of state laws and a directive by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

The San Diego Utility Bill, also known as the SDWA’s water shutoff order, was signed by the CPUC on May 1, 2016, and became effective on July 1.

SDWA had not asked the CPUC to intervene, but the utility’s decision to shut off power until an appropriate payment plan could be negotiated was unusual. It was not a result of a recent California Supreme Court ruling, which has opened the door for more California consumers to sue SDWA for failure to pay them.

Instead, SDWA’s response to the CPUC’s directive was more pragmatic; it took action by shutting off customers’ electricity for two months.

What did the utility’s action accomplish?

The answer depends largely on the point of view of the utility, which the San Diego Union-Tribune editorial board described as a “state-regulated utility” in their June 22 editorial.

“The utility took power away from people who could pay for it,” writes the editorial board. “As the Union-Tribune Editorial Board previously wrote, ‘The utility is a state-funded public utility, and as such, operates as a limited fund of taxpayer dollars controlled by the Legislature.’ This public purpose is more evident, and perhaps more important, when the utility turns its power off to the vast majority of its customers during the ‘cash-flow crunch.’”

Under this view, SDWA had a duty to avoid over

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