TEMPLE CITY – More than 30 Antelope Valley residents organized a trip to the San Gabriel Valley last week to fight Southern California Edison’s pending rate increase that will adversely affect High Desert ratepayers.
Johnathon Ervin, president of the newly-formed Antelope Valley Community Alliance, partnered with The Utility Reform Network (TURN) to help local residents participate in the California Public Utilities Commission hearing in Temple City.
The group’s message to CPUC was to deny SCE’s pending rate-hike request, $1.6 billion a year beginning 2015, because Antelope Valley ratepayers would be unable to keep up with the increases.
“We had some great testimony on how this rate increase personally affects people of the Antelope Valley,” Ervin told The AV Times.
Ervin said he was among the Antelope Valley representatives who spoke at the public hearing.
“I told Administrative Law Judge Kevin Dudney [that] when I was stationed at Edwards Air Force Base in 2002 as an active duty E-5 in the Air Force, I purchased a home in California City. I ran the air conditioning during that summer and I received a bill for almost 1,000 dollars. I couldn’t believe it, but I had to have a garage sale and sold my game system to pay the bill!” Ervin told The AV Times, in recalling his testimony at the meeting.
Ervin said more than 20 of the Antelope Valley representatives spoke at the public hearing, explaining how many residents live on fixed incomes and how electricity consumption is much higher in hotter areas of Southern California, such as the High Desert.
Mark Toney, executive director of TURN, said in a statement prior to the public meeting that his organization is “demanding that the CPUC reject Edison’s greed in demanding a $1.6 billion rate hike.”
Toney’s organization, a San Francisco-based consumer advocate, has organized other rallies to protest SCE’s request for a rate increase.
According to TURN, the SCE is asking for a 16.6 percent increase per kilowatt-hour for residential use, which translates into an increase of 20.06 cents a kWh. Households using 600 kWh a month will likely see an $18.81 increase, according to the utility, which TURN says amounts to $1.6 billion a year for SCE.
Utilities like SCE are justifying the rate hikes, saying there is a rising demand for an energy source that is shrinking in supply, as well as the increasing need to invest in new equipment and infrastructure improvements.
Ervin believes Antelope Valley participants at the meeting effectively made their case to CPUC officials, saying the commissioner was “very receptive” to their testimony.
“I thought it couldn’t have gone better,” he said. “But what we’re hoping for now, now that we’re on the Public Utility Commission’s mind, is that we get some action from them. We want a rate freeze, and we also want a hearing held here (in the Antelope Valley).”
Ervin explained the purpose behind the Community Alliance is to bring together residents who are committed to improving the quality of life for Lancaster, Palmdale and the surrounding communities.
“After the Lancaster City election, I decided that we don’t have to have partisan politics controlling us,” he said, noting that Thursday’s public hearing was the group’s first action. “This alliance is to allow us to do things together, come together under one goal, regardless of color, creed or religion.”
Remaining public meetings to address SCE’s proposed rate increase will take place June 3 at 1:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. at Residence Inn by Marriott in Oxnard; and June 4 at 3 p.m. at the Tulare City Council Chambers in Tulare.
“We will continue to fight the increases; we aren’t done fighting and we hope to get a hearing here in the Antelope Valley,” Ervin stated.
More information is available at http://turn.org.