PG&E “SmartMeter” opt-out fees are suspended
I've just received word after weeks of stonewalling by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) that PG&E's proposed fees for those who "opt-out" of having a "SmartMeter" and the wireless mesh network data transceiver bundled with it -- or who aren't home, don't have authority to grant access for that purpose, or don't chose to give, sell, or rent to PG&E siting rights for an antenna and transceiver -- have been suspended (at least for now) as a result of procedural errors by PG&E and the CPUC in handling my protest of the proposal.
I was told on April 5th that the CPUC Energy Division's earlier approval of the PG&E "Advice Letter" proposing the fees and other terms of the "SmartMeter" opt-out program had been "withdrawn", but where the CPUC thought that left the status of the Advice Letter and fees remained unclear.
After weeks of unanswered e-mail and voicemail messages, I finally received the following e-mail message today:
Date: Fri, 20 Apr 2012 10:15:06 -0700
From: "Dorman, Elizabeth" email@example.com
Subject: ... Re: protest to PG&E Advice Letter 3278-G 4006-E and related matters
To: "Edward Hasbrouck" firstname.lastname@example.org
Cc: "Miller, Karen" email@example.com, "Randolph, Edward F." firstname.lastname@example.org, "Tousey, Mary Lou" email@example.com
I'm sorry that I have not previously responded to your requests....
Legal Division has instructed Energy Division that the Advice Letter filing is suspended, and requested that they include such label on our website....
I have contacted our attorney who handles public records requests regarding your concerns about communication between CPUC and PG&E staff regarding the above-referenced Advice Letter.
From: Edward Hasbrouck firstname.lastname@example.org
Sent: Friday, April 20, 2012 9:58 AM
To: Dorman, Elizabeth
Cc: Miller, Karen; Randolph, Edward F.; Tousey, Mary Lou
Subject: ... protest to PG&E Advice Letter 3278-G 4006-E and related matters
Dear Ms. Dorman:
I have received no response to my outstanding request for a definitive official statement as to what the the Energy Division and/or the CPUC consider to be the current status of PG&E advice letter 3278-G/4006-E, and specific[ally] whether you consider it to have been automatically suspended.
The Advice Letter is now listed on the CPUC web site as "Closed -- No Action". But it is not listed on the CPUC Web site as "Suspended".
Please confirm whether you consider this Advice Letter to be rejected or suspended, including automatic suspension by action of CPUC rules.
As of now, the CPUC still lists PG&E Advice Letter 3278-G/4006-E as closed with "No Action" rather than still pending, and doesn't list it as suspended. Equally, or more, importantly, PG&E (which presumably has known of the suspension for at least two weeks) still lists this Advice Letter as "Effective 2/16/2012 Pending Final Disposition" -- fraudulently misrepresenting the status of regulatory approval for its proposed fees in order to induce people to agree to accept a "SmartMeter", and/or fees related to it, under false pretenses.
I've requested that the CPUC itself review the Energy Division's actions, and submitted that request directly to the CPUC at their meeting yesterday (see my comments at 6:11-8:19 of the video archive of the meeting), but the Energy Division has tried to exercise a "pocket veto" of my request for review of its actions, and give itself a "do over".
I'm continuing to pursue both my public records request (which includes records of communications within the CPUC as well as between CPUC staff and PG&E) and my request for the CPUC itself (i.e. the voting members of the Commission) to review what has happened.
[Update: A journalist (David Baker of the San Francisco Chronicle) who contacted the CPUC for comment on this story was told by a different person in the CPUC Energy Division that the e-mail message reprinted above was in error, and that the PG&E Advice Letter is not suspended. I have received no further communication from Ms. Dorman or anyone else at the CPUC or PG&E, so I don't know whether this means that there is a difference of opinion within the CPUC staff, that the CPUC Energy Division is unwilling to accept or acknowledge the legal opinion of the CPUC Legal Division, that someone has changed their mind, or that the statements in Ms. Dorman's e-mail message to me really were (more) "mistakes".]
[Futher update: On April 25th, San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) filed its own Advice Letter 2348-E/2109-G containing a provision identical to the one in the PG&E Advice letter that I protested. (See more info here on SDG&E Advice Letters.) I expect that Southern California Edison (SCE) will file a similar Advice Letter shortly. Feel free to cut and paste from my protest of the PG&E Advice Letter if you'd like to file your own similar protest against SDG&E or SCE.]
[Further update: On April 27th, I received a belated, incomplete response to my request for public CPUC records about my protest. It confirms that some CPUC staff think the PG&E Advice letter is not suspended, and is still in effect, but leaves unclear who, if anyone, speaks for the CPUC as an institution on this question. Among the missing records were any records of who was instructed to put what information, when, about the Advice Letter and/or my protest on the CPUC and/or PG&E Web sites or dockets.
The most significant revelation in the records the CPUC has released is that the idea of including provisions in the Advice Letter for those who do not affirmatively indicate that they don't want a "SmartMeter" -- which was outside the scope of the CPUC's decision, and formed the basis for my protest -- originated not with PG&E but with a "suggestion" from Marzia Zafar of the CPUC staff in an e-mail message on Feb 13th (also included as p. 18 of this PDF): "In your advice letter, you may want to add language about those customers who do not choose. Either they are automatically opting in or opting out or you may want to add penalty language or disconnection language. Just a thought after looking at the meter that was under lockdown," Ms. Zafar told PG&E, apparently referring to a picture of a PG&E customer who had secured their analog meter against unconsented replacement or tampering.]
[Further update, 30 April 2012: Marin County cites my protest as basis for motion to halt PG&E "SmartMeter" deployment]
[Further update: The CPUC Energy Division has issued a new purported approval of PG&E's "SmartMeter" opt-out Advice Letter, tariff, and fees. I believe this action is invalid, and I have filed a second renewed request for the full CPUC (i.e. the Commissioners themselves, at a public business and voting meeting) to review the CPUC Energy Division's actions and inactions with respect to this PG&E Advice Letter.]Posted by Edward, 20 April 2012, 10:39