|Electric Utilities. Assessments. Bonds.|
This initiative measure is submitted to the people in accordance with the provisions of Article II, Section 8 of the California Constitution.
This initiative measure amends and adds sections to the Public Utilities Code; therefore, existing provisions proposed to be deleted are printed in
strikeout typeand new provisions proposed to be added are printed in italic type to indicate that they are new. PROPOSED LAW THE UTILITY RATE REDUCTION AND REFORM ACT
SECTION 1. Findings and Declarations.
The People of California find and declare as follows:
The cost and dependability of California's electric utility service are threatened by a new law that was intended to reduce regulation of electric utility companies in this state.
Any change in the way electricity is sold should benefit all electric utility customers, including residential and small business customers, and should result in a fair and competitive marketplace.
Instead of creating a fully competitive market for electricity, the new law unfairly favors existing electric utility monopolies by forcing customers to pay rates more than 40 percent higher than the market price in order to bail out utilities for their past bad investments.
As a result of this $28 billion bailout for electric utility companies, the average California household will pay more than $250 more per year for electricity than it would in a fully competitive market.
Residential and small business customers should not be required to bear the costs of bonds used by utility companies to pay for past bad investments.
It is against public policy for residential and small business customers to be required to pay for the imprudent and uneconomic decisions of electric utility companies to invest in nuclear power plants that the public did not want and that threaten the health and safety of this state.
Under the new law, deregulation of electric utility companies may result in marketing abuses that harm residential and small business customers. Such abuses may include the selling of information about these customers to other companies for profit.
Therefore, the People of California declare that it is necessary to protect residential and small business customers from unfair and unjustified taxes and surcharges that will force them to subsidize electric utility companies. It is also necessary to ensure that residential and small business customers directly benefit from deregulation of electric utility companies.
SEC. 2. Purpose.
The purpose of this chapter is to:
1. Reduce residential and small commercial electricity rates by 20 percent to assure that these customers receive a direct benefit from the transition to the competitive marketplace for electricity.
2. Prohibit taxes, surcharges, bond payments, or any other assessment from being added to electricity bills to pay off utility companies' past bad investments in nuclear power plants and other generation-related costs.
3. Prohibit bonds from being used to force residential and small business customers to pay for past bad investments by electric utility companies.
4. Provide for fair and public review of California Public Utilities Commission decisions related to electricity price and services.
5. Protect the privacy of utility customers and provide the information consumers need to obtain low cost and high quality electric service.
SEC. 3. Section 368.1 is added to the Public Utilities Code, to read:
368.1. (a) No later than January 1, 1999, electricity rates for residential and small commercial customers shall be reduced so that these customers receive rate reductions of at least 20 percent on their total electricity bill as compared to the rate schedules in effect for these customers on June 10, 1996.
(b) The rate reductions described in subdivision (a) shall be achieved through cutting payments to electric corporations for their nuclear and other uneconomic generation costs as described in Sections 367.1 and 367.2.
(c) No utility tax, bond payment, surcharge, or other assessment in any form may be levied against any electric utility customer to pay for the rate reductions described in subdivisions (a) and (b).
SEC. 4. Section 367.1 is added to the Public Utilities Code, to read:
367.1. (a) Effective immediately, costs for nuclear generation plants and related assets and obligations shall not be paid for by electric utility customers, except to the extent that these costs are recovered by the sale of electricity at competitive market prices as reflected in independent Power Exchange revenues or in contracts with the Independent System Operator.
(b) No utility tax, bond payment, surcharge, or other assessment in any form may be levied against any electric utility customer for the recovery of nuclear costs described in subdivision (a).
(c) This section does not apply to reasonable nuclear decommissioning costs as referenced in Section 379.
SEC. 5. Section 367.2 is added to the Public Utilities Code, to read:
367.2. (a) Effective immediately, costs for non-nuclear generation plants and related assets and obligations may not be recovered from electric utility customers under the cost recovery mechanism provided for by Sections 367 to 376, inclusive, except to the extent that those costs are recovered by the sale of electricity at competitive market rates from independent Power Exchange revenues or from contracts with the Independent System Operator, unless the electric utility first demonstrates to the satisfaction of the commission at a public hearing that failure to recover those costs would deprive it of the opportunity to earn a fair rate of return.
(b) This section does not apply to costs associated with renewable non-nuclear electricity generation facilities described in paragraph (3) of subdivision (c) of Section 381, or to costs associated with power purchases from qualifying facilities pursuant to the federal Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 and related commission decisions.
SEC. 6. Section 840.1 is added to the Public Utilities Code, to read:
840.1. Notwithstanding current Sections 840 to 847, inclusive:
(a) No electric corporation, affiliate of an electric corporation, or any other financing entity may assess or collect any utility tax, bond payment, surcharge, or any other assessment authorized by a Public Utilities Commission financing order issued pursuant to Sections 840 to 847, inclusive, for the purpose of paying principal, interest, or other costs of any bonds authorized by those sections.
(b) The Public Utilities Commission may not issue any financing order pursuant to Sections 840 to 847, inclusive, after the effective date of this section.
(c) Any electric corporation, affiliate of an electric corporation, or other financing entity that is subject to a financing order issued under Section 841 that is determined by a court of competent jurisdiction to be enforceable notwithstanding subdivision (a) of this section, shall offset any utility tax, bond payment, surcharge, or other assessment described in subdivision (a) collected from any customer with an equal credit to be applied concurrently with the collection of the utility tax, bond payment, surcharge, or other assessment.
SEC. 7. Section 841.1 is added to the Public Utilities Code, to read:
841.1. Any underwriter or bond purchaser who purchases rate reduction bonds after November 24, 1997, issued pursuant to current Sections 840 to 847, inclusive, shall be deemed to have notice of the provisions of Sections 367.1, 367.2, 368.1, and 840.1.
SEC. 8. Section 1701.5 is added to the Public Utilities Code, to read:
1701.5. (a) Any action or proceeding of the Public Utilities Commission pursuant to Sections 367.1, 367.2, 368.1, and 840.1 shall require a public hearing where evidence is taken by, and discretion is vested in, the Public Utilities Commission.
(b) Any change to the amount of above-market costs for non-nuclear generation plants and related assets and obligations being recovered from utility customers shall be made only after the electrical corporation has provided notice to the public pursuant to Section 454.
(c) Any action or proceeding to attack, review, set aside, void, or annul a determination, finding, or decision of the Public Utilities Commission relating to electric restructuring under Chapter 2.3 (commencing with Section 330) and financing of transition costs as described in Article 5.5 (commencing with Section 840) of Chapter 4 shall be in accordance with Section 1094.5 of the Code of Civil Procedure. In any such action, the writ of mandate shall lie from the court of appeals to the Public Utilities Commission. The court may not exercise its independent judgment, but shall determine only whether the determination, finding, or decision of the Public Utilities Commission is supported by substantial evidence in light of the whole record.
SEC. 9. Section 394.15 is added to the Public Utilities Code, to read:
394.15. The confidentiality of residential and small commercial customer information shall be fully protected as provided by law. No entity providing electricity services, including an electric corporation, may provide information about a residential or small commercial customer to any third party without the express written consent of the customer.
SEC. 10. Section 393 is added to the Public Utilities Code, to read:
393. The Public Utilities Commission shall require each electric utility or electric service provider to provide information or materials with each utility bill issued to residential and small commercial customers as the commission determines are necessary to assist consumers in obtaining low-cost, high-quality electric service options, including electric service options that reduce environmental impacts such as those that rely on renewable energy sources, and to protect the consumers' interest in all matters concerning safe and dependable delivery of electric service.
SEC. 11. Section 330.1 is added to the Public Utilities Code, to read:
330.1. (a) "Utility tax," "bond payments," "surcharge," "assessment," or "involuntary payment" mean any charge that serves to permit an electric corporation to recover the value of uneconomic assets from ratepayers, and includes, but is not limited to, a "fixed transition amount," as defined by subdivision (d) of Section 840, and the "competition transition charge" that is the nonbypassable charge referred to in Sections 367 to 376, inclusive.
(b) For purposes of this section and Sections 367.1, 367.2, 368.1, 393, and 840.1, the terms "electric utility," "electric utility company," and "electric corporation" have the same meaning as the term "electrical corporation" as defined in Section 218.
SEC. 12. Section 367 of the Public Utilities Code is amended to read:
367. The commission shall identify and determine those costs and categories of costs for generation-related assets and obligations, consisting of generation facilities, generation-related regulatory assets, nuclear settlements, and power purchase contracts, including, but not limited to, restructurings, renegotiations or terminations thereof approved by the commission, that were being collected in commission-approved rates on December 20, 1995, and that may become uneconomic as a result of a competitive generation market, in that these costs may not be recoverable in market prices in a competitive market, and appropriate costs incurred after December 20, 1995, for capital additions to generating facilities existing as of December 20, 1995, that the commission determines are reasonable and should be recovered, provided that these additions are necessary to maintain the facilities through December 31, 2001. These uneconomic costs shall include transition costs as defined in subdivision (f) of Section 840, and shall be recovered from all customers or in the case of fixed transition amounts, from the customers specified in subdivision (a) of Section 841, on a nonbypassable basis and shall:
Be amortized over a reasonable time period, including collection on an accelerated basis, consistent with not increasing rates for any rate schedule, contract, or tariff option above the levels in effect on June 10, 1996; provided that, the recovery shall not extend beyond December 31, 2001, except as follows:
(1) Costs associated with employee-related transition costs as set forth in subdivision (b) of Section 375 shall continue until fully collected; provided, however, that the cost collection shall not extend beyond December 31, 2006.
(2) Power purchase contract obligations shall continue for the duration of the contract. Costs associated with any buy-out, buy-down, or renegotiation of the contracts shall continue to be collected for the duration of any agreement governing the buy-out, buy-down, or renegotiated contract; provided, however, no power purchase contract shall be extended as a result of the buy-out, buy-down, or renegotiation.
(3) Costs associated with contracts approved by the commission to settle issues associated with the Biennial Resource Plan Update may be collected through March 31, 2002; provided that only 80 percent of the balance of the costs remaining after December 31, 2001, shall be eligible for recovery.
(4) Nuclear incremental cost incentive plans for the San Onofre nuclear generating station shall continue for the full term as authorized by the commission in Decision 96-01-011 and Decision 96-04-059; provided that the recovery shall not extend beyond December 31, 2003.
(5) Costs associated with the exemptions provided in subdivision (a) of Section 374 may be collected through March 31, 2002, provided that only fifty million dollars ($50,000,000) of the balance of the costs remaining after December 31, 2001, shall be eligible for recovery.
(6) Fixed transition amounts, as defined in subdivision (d) of Section 840, may be recovered from the customers specified in subdivision (a) of Section 841 until all rate reduction bonds associated with the fixed transition amounts have been paid in full by the financing entity.
(b)Be based on a calculation mechanism that nets the negative value of all above market utility-owned generation-related assets against the positive value of all below market utility-owned generation related assets. For those assets subject to valuation, the valuations used for the calculation of the uneconomic portion of the net book value shall be determined not later than December 31, 2001, and shall be based on appraisal, sale, or other divestiture. The commission's determination of the costs eligible for recovery and of the valuation of those assets at the time the assets are exposed to market risk or retired, in a proceeding under Section 455.5, 851, or otherwise, shall be final, and notwithstanding Section 1708 or any other provision of law, may not be rescinded, altered or amended. (c)
(b) Be limited in the case of utility-owned fossil generation to the uneconomic portion of the net book value of the fossil capital investment existing as of January 1, 1998, and appropriate costs incurred after December 20, 1995, for capital additions to generating facilities existing as of December 20, 1995, that the commission determines are reasonable and should be recovered, provided that the additions are necessary to maintain the facilities through December 31, 2001. All "going forward costs" of fossil plant operation, including operation and maintenance, administrative and general, fuel and fuel transportation costs, shall be recovered solely from independent Power Exchange revenues or from contracts with the Independent System Operator, provided that for the purposes of this chapter, the following costs may be recoverable pursuant to this section:
(1) Commission-approved operating costs for particular utility-owned fossil powerplants or units, at particular times when reactive power/voltage support is not yet procurable at market-based rates in locations where it is deemed needed for the reactive power/voltage support by the Independent System Operator, provided that the units are otherwise authorized to recover market-based rates and provided further that for an electrical corporation that is also a gas corporation and that serves at least four million customers as of December 20, 1995, the commission shall allow the electrical corporation to retain any earnings from operations of the reactive power/voltage support plants or units and shall not require the utility to apply any portions to offset recovery of transition costs. Cost recovery under the cost recovery mechanism shall end on December 31, 2001.
(2) An electrical corporation that, as of December 20, 1995, served at least four million customers, and that was also a gas corporation that served less than four thousand customers, may recover, pursuant to this section, 100 percent of the uneconomic portion of the fixed costs paid under fuel and fuel transportation contracts that were executed prior to December 20, 1995, and were subsequently determined to be reasonable by the commission, or 100 percent of the buy-down or buy-out costs associated with the contracts to the extent the costs are determined to be reasonable by the commission.
(c) Be adjusted throughout the period through March 31, 2002, to track accrual and recovery of costs provided for in this subdivision. Recovery of costs prior to December 31, 2001, shall include a return as provided for in Decision 95-12-063, as modified by Decision 96-01-009, together with associated taxes.
(d) (1) Be allocated among the various classes of customers, rate schedules, and tariff options to ensure that costs are recovered from these classes, rate schedules, contract rates, and tariff options, including self-generation deferral, interruptible, and standby rate options in substantially the same proportion as similar costs are recovered as of June 10, 1996, through the regulated retail rates of the relevant electric utility, provided that there shall be a firewall segregating the recovery of the costs of competition transition charge exemptions such that the costs of competition transition charge exemptions granted to members of the combined class of residential and small commercial customers shall be recovered only from these customers, and the costs of competition transition charge exemptions granted to members of the combined class of customers, other than residential and small commercial customers, shall be recovered only from these customers.
(2) Individual customers shall not experience rate increases as a result of the allocation of transition costs. However, customers who elect to purchase energy from suppliers other than the Power Exchange through a direct transaction, may incur increases in the total price they pay for electricity to the extent the price for the energy exceeds the Power Exchange price.
(3) The commission shall retain existing cost allocation authority, provided the firewall and rate freeze principles are not violated.
SEC. 13. Section 368 of the Public Utilities Code is amended to read:
368. Each electrical corporation shall propose a cost recovery plan to the commission for the recovery of the uneconomic costs of an electrical corporation's generation-related assets and obligations identified in Section 367. The commission shall authorize the electrical corporation to recover the costs pursuant to the plan if the plan meets the following criteria:
(a) The cost recovery plan shall set rates for each customer class, rate schedule, contract, or tariff option, at levels equal to the level as shown on electric rate schedules as of June 10, 1996, provided that rates for residential and small commercial customers shall be reduced so that these customers shall receive rate reductions of no less than 10 percent for 1998 continuing through 2002. These rate levels for each customer class, rate schedule, contract, or tariff option shall remain in effect until the earlier of March 31, 2002, or the date on which the commission-authorized costs for utility generation-related assets and obligations have been fully recovered. The electrical corporation shall be at risk for those costs not recovered during that time period. Each utility shall amortize its total uneconomic costs, to the extent possible, such that for each year during the transition period its recorded rate of return on the remaining uneconomic assets does not exceed its authorized rate of return for those assets. For purposes of determining the extent to which the costs have been recovered, any over-collections recorded in Energy Costs Adjustment Clause and Electric Revenue Adjustment Mechanism balancing accounts, as of December 31, 1996, shall be credited to the recovery of the costs.
(b) The cost recovery plan shall provide for identification and separation of individual rate components such as charges for energy, transmission, distribution, public benefit programs, and recovery of uneconomic costs. The separation of rate components required by this subdivision shall be used to ensure that customers of the electrical corporation who become eligible to purchase electricity from suppliers other than the electrical corporation pay the same unbundled component charges, other than energy, that a bundled service customer pays. No cost shifting among customer classes, rate schedules, contract, or tariff options shall result from the separation required by this subdivision. Nothing in this provision is intended to affect the rates, terms, and conditions or to limit the use of any Federal Energy Regulatory Commission-approved contract entered into by the electrical corporation prior to the effective date of this provision.
(c) In consideration of the risk that the uneconomic costs identified in Section 367 may not be recoverable within the period identified in subdivision (a) of Section 367, an electrical corporation that, as of December 20, 1995, served more than four million customers, and was also a gas corporation that served less than four thousand customers, shall have the flexibility to employ risk management tools, such as forward hedges, to manage the market price volatility associated with unexpected fluctuations in natural gas prices, and the out-of-pocket costs of acquiring the risk management tools shall be considered reasonable and collectible within the transition freeze period. This subdivision applies only to the transaction costs associated with the risk management tools and shall not include any losses from changes in market prices.
In order to ensure implementation of the cost recovery plan, the limitation on the maximum amount of cost recovery for nuclear facilities that may be collected in any year adopted by the commission in Decision 96-01-011 and Decision 96-04-059 shall be eliminated to allow the maximum opportunity to collect the nuclear costs within the transition cap period. (e)As to an electrical corporation that is also a gas corporation serving more than four million California customers, so long as any cost recovery plan adopted in accordance with this section satisfies subdivision (a), it shall also provide for annual increases in base revenues, effective January 1, 1997, and January 1, 1998, equal to the inflation rate for the prior year plus two percentage points, as measured by the consumer price index. The increase shall do both of the following:
(1) Remain in effect pending the next general rate case review, which shall be filed not later than December 31, 1997, for rates that would become effective in January 1999. For purposes of any commission-approved performance-based ratemaking mechanism or general rate case review, the increases in base revenue authorized by this subdivision shall create no presumption that the level of base revenue reflecting those increases constitute the appropriate starting point for subsequent revenues.
(2) Be used by the utility for the purposes of enhancing its transmission and distribution system safety and reliability, including, but not limited to, vegetation management and emergency response. To the extent the revenues are not expended for system safety and reliability, they shall be credited against subsequent safety and reliability base revenue requirements. Any excess revenues carried over shall not be used to pay any monetary sanctions imposed by the commission.
(e) The cost recovery plan shall provide the electrical corporation with the flexibility to manage the renegotiation, buy-out, or buy-down of the electrical corporation's power purchase obligations, consistent with review by the commission to assure that the terms provide net benefits to ratepayers and are otherwise reasonable in protecting the interests of both ratepayers and shareholders.
(g) An example of a plan authorized by this section is the document entitled "Restructuring Rate Settlement" transmitted to the commission by Pacific Gas and Electric Company on June 12, 1996.
SEC. 14. Initiative Integrity.
(a) This act shall be broadly construed and applied in order to fully promote its underlying purposes, and to be consistent with the United States Constitution and the California Constitution. If any provision of this act conflicts directly or indirectly with any other provision of law, including but not limited to the cost recovery mechanism provided for by Sections 367 through 376 of the Public Utilities Code, or any other statute previously enacted by the Legislature, it is the intent of the voters that those other provisions shall be null and void to the extent that they are inconsistent with this act, and are hereby repealed.
(b) No provision of this act may be amended by the Legislature except (1) to further the purpose of that provision, by a statute passed in each house by rollcall vote entered in the journal, two thirds of the membership concurring, or (2) by a statute that becomes effective only when approved by the electorate. No amendment by the Legislature may be deemed to further the purposes of this act unless it furthers the purpose of the specific provision of this act that is being amended. In any judicial action with respect to any legislative amendment, the court shall exercise its independent judgment as to whether or not the amendment satisfies the requirements of this subdivision.
(c) If any provision of this act or the application thereof to any person or circumstances is held invalid, that invalidity shall not affect other provisions or applications of the act that can be given effect in the absence of the invalid provision or application. To this end, the provisions of this act are severable.
(d) It is the will of the People that any legal challenges to the validity of any provision of this act be acted upon by the courts on an expedited basis.