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A closer look at the CPUC board members who approve SDG&E rate hikes

Commissioners appointed by the governor, vote on rate increases proposed every three years.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — When it comes to outrage over these high bills, CBS 8 is as "Amped Up" as you are and we aren't letting this go, continuing to demand answers for you, until we get them. And if you’d like to give your feedback to SDG&E, you can do so by CLICKING HERE. If you’d like to file a complaint with CPUC, click here.

San Diegans are "amped up" about skyrocketing energy bills from SDG&E. 

The rates are set by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

CBS 8 is taking a closer look at the CPUC board members who approve rate hikes in San Diego.

Former San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre is familiar with the CPUC and how its board members operate.

“They’re located in Northern California. They're appointed by the Governor. And they're heavily influenced by the utilities,” said Aguirre, who is now in private practice in San Diego.

“Most every member of the Public Utilities Commission, including the current president, come out of the Governor's office and have a background in politics,” said Aguirre.

Four of the five CPUC board members were appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom. 

None of them live in San Diego, where SDG&E rates are the highest in the state.

“Our bills are basically set in meetings that most San Diegans have no real opportunity to influence in San Francisco or Sacramento,” said Aguirre.

When Newsom was running for governor in 2018, records show SDG&E’s parent company, Sempra Energy, donated more than $29,000 to Newsom’s campaign.

In November, Newsom appointed Alice Busching Reynolds, 55, president of the CPUC. She makes a base salary of $228,000 and lives in Sacramento, according to public records. Her email is alice.reynolds@cpuc.ca.gov.

In December, Newsom appointed John Reynolds, 38, to the CPUC board.  He makes a $174,000 base salary and lives in Oakland. His email is john.reynolds@cpuc.ca.gov.

In February of 2021, Newsom appointed Darcie Houck, 52, to the CPUC board. She makes a $159,000 base salary and lives in Davis, California. Her email is darcie.houck@cpuc.ca.gov.

In 2019, Newsom appointed Genevieve Shiroma, 66, of Sacramento to the board.  She makes a $153,000 base salary. Her email is GSH@cpuc.ca.gov.

Finally, Governor Brown appointed Clifford Rechtschaffen, 64, to the board in 2017. He lives in Oakland, according to real estate records, and made $142,000 base salary in 2020. His email is cr6@cpuc.ca.gov.

Every three years, SDG&E presents its case for rate increases in a series of public hearings and the CPUC votes on the proposed increases.

“Utilities meet in secret in ex parte meetings with commissioners and their staff, and they line them up with whatever it is that the utilities are asking for, for rate increases,” said Aguirre.

“The rates are going to wake up people, and I think there's going to be a backlash.  And hopefully we can guide that along constructive channels to get the rates down to affordable levels,” said Aguirre.

“The best thing to do is to call your legislator, call your local Assembly person, send an email to them, go down and visit them and say look, we need you to do a better job of policing the Public Utilities Commission and their failure to keep rates at a reasonable level," Aguirre added.

A spokesperson for the CPUC did not respond to CBS 8’s request for comment. The agency has a complaint process posted on its web site.

WATCH RELATED: Amped Up | What can consumers do to lower SDG&E rates? (February 2022)

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