Study says Edison’s water rates highest in the state

An attorney opposed to Southern California Edison’s request to increase Catalina’s water rates has released a study that says Edison charges the highest rates in the state. Norris Bishton Jr., who represents the opponents (or “protestants”) of Edison’s so-called general rate case before the California Public Utilities Commission, quoted Administrative Judge Robert Barnett as saying Edison’s current rates “are by far the highest in the State of California” in his so-called Proposed Decision.

An attorney opposed to Southern California Edison’s request to increase Catalina’s water rates has released a study that says Edison charges the highest rates in the state. Norris Bishton Jr., who represents the opponents (or “protestants”) of Edison’s so-called general rate case before the California Public Utilities Commission, quoted Administrative Judge Robert Barnett as saying Edison’s current rates “are by far the highest in the State of California” in his so-called Proposed Decision.

An Edison spokesman stood by the company’s water rates. “Despite the high cost of doing business on Catalina Island, Southern California Edison’s proposed rate increase will result in average residential monthly water bills for Catalina Island customers that are comparable to monthly bills for customers of small mainland water utilities. 

Edison’s regional manager for Local Public Affairs.
Judge Barnett’s decision, which the Utilities Commission may modify or ignore, favored having mainland electricity users pay for the proposed water rate increase. Commissioners have expressed concerns with that proposal and have delayed making a decision. Meanwhile, the Division of Rate Payer Advocates—which is a division of the Utilities Commission—has been lobbying in favor of having Islanders pay for the increase over a period of three years.

According to a press release issued by attorney Bishton, the judge did not provide any information as to just how high Edison’s current rates are when compared to the rates charged by other water utilities.

The Bishton study said Edison was recently classified a Class B water utility (more than 2,000 connections) by the Utilities Commission. Edison had previously been classified as a Class C water utility (500 to 2,000 connections). The study compares Edison’s current and proposed rates with the rates charged by the other five Class B water utilities and the 22 Class C water utilities.

According to Bishton, Edison’s current lowest rate is 4.9 times greater than the average of the lowest rates charged by Class B water utilities other than Edison and 17.7 times greater than the average of the highest rates charged. Edison’s highest rate applies at 10,000 gallons (13.37 ccf). Most of the businesses as well as the seven campgrounds on Catalina Island use more than 10,000 gallons in a billing period and therefore are paying the highest rate. Edison’s lowest current rate is 9.9 times greater than the lowest rate charged by other Class B water utilities and 7.2 times higher than the highest rate.

The California Division of Ratepayer Advocates recently lobbied the Utilities Commission to raise Edison’s rates by 45 percent. Bishton said this would result in Edison’s lowest rate being 7.1 times higher than the average of the lowest rates charged by other Class B water utilities and 25.7 times higher than the average of the highest rates charged. To make matters worse, under the Proposed Decision, the highest rate applies at 6,500 gallons (8.69 ccf). To further put the highest rate DRA recommended in perspective, it is $0.056 cents a gallon.

Edison sought an 83 percent increase. Such an increase would result in Edison’s lowest rate being nine times higher than the average of the lowest rates charged by other Class B water utilities and 32.4 times higher than the average of the highest rates charged, according to Bishton.
Edison’s current lowest rate is 3.2 times greater than the average of the lowest rates charged by Class C water utilities and 11.2 times greater than the average of the highest rates charged. Edison’s highest current rate is 4.8 times greater than the highest rate charged by a Class C water utility.
With regard to DRA’s recommended 45 percent increase, Edison’s lowest rate would be 4.7 times higher than the average of the lowest rates charged by Class C water utilities and 16.2 times higher than the average of the highest rates charged.

Edison sought an 83 percent increase. Such an increase would result in Edison’s lowest rate being 5.9 times higher than the average of the lowest rates charged by Class C water utilities and 20.5 times higher than the average of the highest rates charged.

“This study demonstrates just how out of line Edison’s current rates are, forgetting the rates it seeks in the GRC (general rate case),” Bishton said. “The highest current Class B rate is $3.87 per ccf or $0.005 per gallon and the highest Class C rate is $5.81 per ccf or $0.007 per gallon. In the GRC, the highest rate Edison is seeking is $51.48, 183 percent of its current highest rate – $28.13 per ccf. This calculates to $0.069 per gallon. Some of the Class B and C water utilities pay for the water they distribute. Edison gets its water free. This makes the rates Edison charges and wants to charge even more incredible. Hopefully, the CPUC will not want to set a precedent that Class B and C water utilities can charge $0.069 per gallon as sought by Edison or even the $0.056 per gallon being lobbied for by the DRA.”

According to the Bishton study, all of the Class B and Class C water utilities, except for Edison, express rates as per 100 cubic feet (ccf) of water, which is equal to 748 gallons of water. This is the standard in the industry. Edison alone expresses rates per 1,000 gallons of water. For comparison purposes, Edison’s rates must be converted to ccfs. For example, Edison’s highest current rate is $37.61 per 1,000 gallons. This converts to $29.13 per ccf.
 

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