L.A.’s quest for water leaves costly bill: Higher rates for customers, choking air pollution
In its latest salvo in an ongoing battle with Los Angeles City Hall over water, PG&E has asked the city to waive the company’s right to receive millions of dollars in additional revenue from the city in the form of rate increases.
The utility is also asking for more flexibility in how water is used, or the city to reduce the amount it receives from the utilities in an agreement PG&E says is necessary to stave off bankruptcy. City leaders, on the other hand, see the utility as a necessary part of the city’s long-term vision for the future.
The proposals, as they stand now, represent an unusually public fight between City Hall and PG&E as the utility struggles to recover from a spate of deadly wildfires this year that have left a charred and water-scarred landscape in its wake.
PG&E this week reached out to residents and to members of the City Council and City Attorney’s Office with a petition that asked the courts to dismiss City Attorney Mara Elliott’s case against the company and declare the water system in a “declaratory judgment” hearing to prevent PG&E from seeking billions of dollars in rate increases due to the water shutoffs.
While the city doesn’t believe that the water shutoffs — which the company says are necessary to comply with the terms of its state-approved rate plan — are improper, that is the point of the city’s filing, said Assistant City Attorney Mark Schulman, the filing’s lead counsel. If the shutoffs stay in place, the city believes the lawsuit could damage PG&E’s bond rating and its ability to raise public capital through debt.
“If there is a judgment in this case, it will be a judgment against the City of Los Angeles,” Schulman said. “If the lawsuit is successful, the City of Los Angeles will be the one paying the legal bills and if this case is successful, we’ll be responsible for a substantial amount of the legal fees. So we are hoping that the court will grant our motion to dismiss.”