Bill to Expand CPUC Intervenor Compensation

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, March 11, 2005 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

Sen. Martha Escutia (D-Whittier) recently introduced legislation significantly expanding the California Public Utilities Commission’s intervenor compensation process.

Existing law provides compensation for "reasonable" advocate’s fees, expert witness fees, and other costs to advocates for participation or intervention in any CPUC proceeding. It is based, in part, upon whether the intervenor would experience significant financial hardship. The most active intervenors at the CPUC are The Utility Reform Network, which represents residential ratepayers, the Latino Issues Forum and the Greenlining Institute.

SB 951 provides that the law relating to participant and intervenor compensation "be liberally construed to promote participation." The bill also requires the CPUC to "promote participation" and "award additional compensation" for reasonable costs incurred in organizing and publicizing opportunities for CPUC hearings or proceedings, or in forming and coordinating coalitions to participate in CPUC hearings or proceedings.

Rather than expanding the intervenor process, policymakers should focus on sensible reforms to make the intervenor process work for all ratepayers and not just for those groups that are intervening on behalf of low-income ratepayers. The first priority should be to eliminate wasteful and costly duplication of advocacy efforts at the CPUC. The place to start is intervenor compensation, where advocacy groups often get funding for advocacy that merely "piggy-backs" onto the efforts of other advocates.

Additionally, there should be a firewall with regard to the intervenor funding. Currently, industrial customers contribute to intervenor compensation even though the funding goes toward intervenors that advocate for small users and against the interests of industrial customers. Existing law should be amended to require that intervenor funding be retained within the customer class on whose behalf the intervenor is advocating.
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