Consumer watchdog is critical of Sempra Energy's tactics


Liza Tucker said Sempra Energy is more aggressive than California’s two other major investor-owned utilities.   File photo

Consumer watchdog advocate Liza Tucker said Sempra Energy is more aggressive than California’s two other major investor-owned utilities.

“Sempra puts whatever costs they can get away on to the ratepayers by making arguments that somehow this is necessary and if regulators swallow that argument, or are predisposed to be nice to these utilities for many different reasons, utilities can put these costs on to ratepayers,” Tucker told California Business Daily.

However, shareholders Elliott Management and Bluescape Resources are attempting to turn the underperforming utility, which been investing ratepayer funds in foreign companies in an attempt to increase its profits, into a more transparent one by vetting the company's board of directors and revamping its business operations.

“Yes, of course utilities want to try and use rate payers as much as possible to foot the cost of projects that don’t benefit them,” Tucker said of Sempra’s history of foreign investments.

One example is seen in Sempra pushing for ratepayers to pay $200 million to reopen Aliso Canyon for a new compressor station that state regulators say is not needed. The 47-mile, $600 million gas pipeline would run from Riverside County to the Mexican border, allowing Sempra to export liquefied natural gas to Asia, according to Tucker. 

“There whole business is about exporting liquid natural gas up to parts of the world that need it,” she said. “That is proof positive that regulators are in the pockets of these companies and part of the reason is that these companies donate generously to Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers.”

Pointing to Power Play, an in-depth report she authored, Tucker said having Brown’s sister Kathleen as a Sempra board member is an apparent conflict of interest, at the very least. “When you look at it, Sempra has done fantastically well under Jerry Brown,” Tucker said.

According to the report, Sempra’s market capitalization has almost tripled to $28 billion, and its stock price has risen 117 percent under the Brown Administration.

“Sixty-four percent of that increase in capitalization came in the wake of the company naming Brown’s sister Kathleen to its board in 2013. For her service to Sempra, Kathleen Brown has earned more than $1 million in cash, stock and other benefits,” Tucker wrote.

She said Sempra's shareholders are all molded into one big ball of wax. 

"It's not rocket science," Tucker added of the blatant benefits Sempra and its shareholders are making off ratepayers backs.

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