Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Free Agent Signing, Rate Increases Up The Ante In Utility Fight

30 year PG&E vet Don Battles has gone over the wall and joined forces with rival South San Joaquin Irrigation District in its fight against PG&E to acquire assets through eminent domain and become a utility player itself.

Battles will serve as systems director for the district where he will be in charge of developing the actual plan to deliver services to customers in SSJID service area.

According to the Modesto Bee:

"The plan is hotly contested by PG&E. It depends on eminent domain to force PG&E to sell power poles, substations and transformers to SSJID. Until 2005, PG&E had an exclusive contract to buy electricity that runs through those lines and systems from the Tri-Dam Project, a series of electricity-producing dams along the Stanislaus River jointly owned by the SSJID and the Oakdale Irrigation District. But PG&E's 50-year contract expired Dec. 31, 2004, and the SSJID wants to use its share of future power to provide electricity to local customers. The issue is before the Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento."

The fight promises to get even uglier if PG&E is successful in ramming through proposed rate increases in the area that will average about 6% for homes and businesses.