Remembering TURN Founder Sylvia Siegel
When firebrand Sylvia Siegel discovered that no one was challenging outrageous utility rate increase applications at the California Public Utilities Commission, she stepped up and decided to do the job herself. Siegel founded TURN, originally called Toward Utility Rate Normalization, from her kitchen table in 1973. She taught herself the complex laws and rules that govern utility rates and quickly learned how to use them to the benefit of the public, rather than utility shareholders. Siegel was ably assisted by TURN’s first attorney, Mike Florio, who represented TURN for over 30 years before being appointed to the CPUC by Governor Brown in 2011.
As executive director of TURN, Siegel exposed utility schemes that cheated consumers, won customers millions of dollars in refunds and successfully fought myriad plots to raise rates. She was instrumental in California’s adoption of a “lifeline rate”- making sure that customers can purchase a necessary amount of electricity at the lowest possible rates, a victory that continues to be one of the most important consumer protections available to low income Californians today.
Siegel’s sharp tongue and quick wit grabbed headlines wherever she went, and her dedication and commitment inspired thousands of consumers to join TURN. Under her leadership TURN grew from a home-based operation in Marin County to become the largest and most successful utility consumer advocacy organization in the state, racking up billions of dollars in savings for California consumers.