Letter From Our ED—September 2007

Few reruns could be more unwelcome than a rerun of deregulation, and even fewer have been outlawed by the Legislature.

But if the Governor and his representatives at the CPUC have anything to say about it, we’ll all suffer through a remake of one of the worst chapters in our state’s history, regardless of the law that prevents it.

Few reruns could be more unwelcome than a rerun of deregulation, and even fewer have been outlawed by the Legislature. But if the Governor and his representatives at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) have anything to say about it, we’ll all suffer through a remake of one of the worst chapters in our state’s history, regardless of the law that prevents it.

Back in 2001, when California was still reeling from rolling blackouts and market manipulation, state law was changed to forbid a return to deregulation in the foreseeable future. In the past six years, that law has helped California stabilize its electric market and focus on the important goals of conservation and renewable energy. But it is a thorn in the side of the big energy companies, who have the ear of the Governor even as they find fewer and fewer audiences for their deregulation fantasy.

Although many states backed away from deregulation in the wake of California’s failed experiment, Texas, Illinois and a few others didn’t learn from our mistakes and made the same ones themselves. In those states and across the country, deregulated bills are skyrocketing, consumers are on the warpath, and state legislators are desperately seeking solutions.

The time would seem to be all wrong for another experiment in California, not only does state law forbid it, but we should have learned something from the first go-round that began in 1996, when Jeffery Skilling and Ken Lay were feted as saviors and visionaries in Sacramento. But the energy companies know they have a friend in the Governor’s cigar tent, and don’t want to risk waiting until the political winds change. They are going for an end run, with the Governor’s blessing.

The Governor has made his position clear not only in public pronouncements but also by appointing CPUC Commissioners who wear the same free market blinders he does. With their recent vote to reconsider deregulation, those Commissioners are poised to subvert the will of the Legislature and risk driving consumers’ bills even higher than they already have been driven.

TURN, of course, has been the leading voice against electric deregulation in California, and will continue to vigorously defend consumers’ right to affordable and reliable electricity. And we will be asking for your support in this vital struggle to prevent more price-gouging, market manipulation and rolling blackouts. Although the four CPUC Commissioners who decided to reconsider deregulation have apparently not learned from their state’s mistakes, we think consumers have, and want to see California move forward not backward.

Sincerely,

Executive Director
Bob Finkelstein