Senate committee passes bill to expose utility customer data

By Michael Shaw

Capitol Update, June 17, 2016 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed AB 1520 last week, a bill that will expose the usage data of commercial, industrial and institutional customers of municipal utilities, like the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, to requests for information from the public or newspaper reporters. In light of the ongoing drought, proponents of the bill claim that this is necessary to ensure that companies are meeting conservation goals and that municipal utilities are held accountable. Residential customers would continue to have their data protected.

Exposing industrial customer data poses risks for industrial customers as it creates the opportunity for public shaming in newspaper articles and by special interest groups. As we saw last year during the most intense debate around the ongoing drought, some companies were called out for the use of large amounts of water without any context of how the water is used. Water use varies across types of manufacturing, but typical uses include water as an ingredient in products, maintenance of equipment, or health and safety at the facility. These public shaming campaigns also typically ignore steps the company has taken to reduce water use. Companies are then forced to take steps to explain their water use and repair their reputation, all of which comes at a cost.

Perhaps the most egregious is the exposure of this data to competitors who may be able to discern productions levels and the economic health of another company based on water, electricity or natural gas use data. Typical, this information would be treated with great confidentiality, but AB 1520 would permit any member of the public to request and receive this information.

AB 1520 also only applies to municipal utilities, so it creates another competitive disadvantage between customers of municipal utilities and those of private utilities.

CMTA is leading a coalition of industry, utility and local government groups to stop AB 1520. The bill passed Senate Judiciary heading to the Senate Appropriations Committee.


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