Senate Stands Up for Consumers, Stands Down Utility Lobbyists

Phone Company Cutbacks Threaten Public Safety

For Immediate Release From The Utility Reform Network

Consumer groups throughout California today applauded a decision by the State Senate Rules Committee to deny Commissioner Rachelle Chong another term on the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).The groups have been urging rejection of Ms. Chong because of her close ties to AT&T and hard line ideological bent toward deregulation, which have resulted in higher prices and fewer rights for phone consumers.Rules Committee Chair Darrell Steinberg yesterday announced that the Committee would not hold a confirmation hearing for Ms. Chong, allowing her nomination to expire.

The groups commended Senator Steinberg for his courage and commitment in standing up for California ratepayers against corporate special interests.

"Consumer have been making the case to the Committee that we simply can’t afford 6 more years of Commissioner Chong" said TURN executive director Mark Toney."The Committee took a long, hard look at Commissioner Chong and reached the same conclusion.Her ties to AT&T are so deep that her independence and credibility have been severely and permanently compromised."

"This is exactly the way the confirmation process is supposed to work," said Sam Kang, managing attorney at the Greenlining Institute, a multi-ethnic advocacy organization."Rather than rubber stamp the Governor’s choice the Committee investigated and reached its own conclusions.The evidence was overwhelming that Ms. Chong’s decisions have had a disastrous impact on low-income communities and people of color."

"California’s diverse communities need a guardian and a champion, and Ms. Chong has refused that responsibility," said Faith Bautista of the Mabuhay Alliance. "We don’t just need officials who look like us, we need officials who truly represent our interests."

"Almost all of Commissioner Chong’s support came from groups funded by AT&T," said Paul Hogarth of San Francisco’s Tenderloin Housing Clinic."Community based organizations uniformly opposed her. For once, utility company lobbying did not drown out our voices."

Other consumer groups on record as opposing Ms. Chong’s confirmation include:

Utility Consumers Action Network
Central City SRO Collaborative (San Francisco)
Los Angeles Metropolitan Churches
California Consumer Federation
Chinatown Community Development Center
Lighthouse Learning Resource Center
Dr. Betty Shabazz Family Resource Center
Bay Localize
Senior Action Network