Water rate case settlement ruled incomplete

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An administrative law judge recently ruled that the settlement of the Avalon water rate increase case is incomplete.

 

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An administrative law judge recently ruled that the settlement of the Avalon water rate increase case is incomplete.

 

Judge Linda A. Rochester, following a Feb. 28 conference calls with attorneys involved Southern California Edison’s application to  increase Avalon’s water rates, ruled by email that the attorneys need to file a comparison document.

 

According to Norris Bishton, the attorney representing opponents of increasing Catalina residents’ water bills, said Rochester was trying to understand the case.

 

“She believes that the next step is for her to determine whether the  settlement is reasonable and just,” Bishton said.

 

A draft of the comparison is being circulated among the lawyers.

 

The attorneys represent opponents of the case, also called “protestants,” Edison, the California Division Ratepayer Advocates and The Utility Reform Network, which is a consumer advocacy group.

 

The proposal to have mainland electricity users share the cost of Avalon’s water bill was originally one of the options put forward  by Edison when the utility company asked the Public Utilities Commission to raise their rates.

 

Edison originally asked the PUC to have Islanders to pay 85 percent of their capital improvement costs.

 

Under the proposed settlement, Edison would be allowed to recover 7.5 percent of the company’s costs for making capital improvements to Avalon’s fresh water system.

 

Under the proposed settlement, Southern California Edison’s electricity customers will share the cost of increased fresh water rates on Catalina Island with the people who live on the island.

 

Otherwise, approximately 4,000 residents would have to pay the $10.7 million capital improvement costs.

 

In October 2013, Bishton said Edison’s electricity customers—including both Islanders and mainland residents—would see their electric bills increase 9 cents a month for 12 months.

 

Members of the California Public Utilities Commission asked for the parties to settle the case rather than approve the cost-sharing plan themselves. By having the rate case settled by the lawyers, the commissioners avoid establishing a precedent.

 

In April 2012, Administrative Law Judge Robert Barnett issued a proposed decision in the case that supported the idea of having Edison electricity customers pay for the water system improvements.

 

In reaching his decision to pass $10,700,000 of Edison’s Rate Base to mainland electric ratepayers, Barnett said that the “water system primarily serves . . . visitors,” and that Catalina ratepayers, who currently are paying the highest rates in California, facing a doubling or more of their current bills, “would welcome the relief, as was made clear at the public hearing.”

 

In early 2011, Ben Harvey, who at the time was a spokesman for Edison, said that if the alternative plan was approved by the state, the rate increase would be a one-time only increase for a one-year period.

 

Harvey said Edison’s argument was that the cost of the water system improvements would be too much to be born only by Catalina residents.

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