Calif Consumer Group Steps Up Opposition To SoCal Ed Bill

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Dow Jones Newswires

LOS ANGELES (Dow Jones)–Three weeks before the state legislature adjourns, a California consumer group is stepping up efforts to oppose a rescue deal for Edison International’s (EIX, news, msgs) insolvent utility Southern California Edison, a spokesman for The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights said Monday.

The group has set up a war room in a hotel one block from the state’s capitol, which it will use to organize citizen volunteers from around the state. The volunteers, who will wear black and yellow armbands for easy identification, will meet with lawmakers and report on legislative developments to the media and to community groups, said spokesman Doug Heller.

“We want politicians to know they are being watched and that an Edison bailout is unacceptable,” Heller said.

A bill is currently being heard by an Assembly committee to rescue SoCal Ed by allowing it to issue up to $2.9 billion in bonds backed by ratepayer revenue. The utility has $3.5 billion in undercollections because it couldn’t pass high wholesale power costs to customers under a rate freeze.

The foundation, which believes the bill will result in rate increases beyond the two already instituted this year, is setting up a telephone line with near-daily updates on legislative developments, Heller said.

The consumer group plans to sponsor a 2002 ballot measure to overturn an Edison bill if it passes. In the past, the group has helped overturn legislation on property taxes and insurance rates through ballot initiatives.

“We’ve done some test mailing on this and have had a real positive response from the public. We’re ready to do a mail-based campaign if the legislature screws up,” Heller said.

About 25,000 people have already signed an online “anti-bailout” petition, according to the foundation’s Web site.

Consumer Watchdog
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