Edison asks state to OK small electric bill increase

Catalina Casino

Your electric bill may temporarily increase to cover water services on Catalina Island if the California Public Utilities Commission approves a proposal by Southern California Edison.

If approved, the rate increase would be temporary.

“This is a one-time application over a 12-year period,” said Ben Harvey, SCE’s regional manager for Local Public Affairs.

Harvey said the proposed increase would amount to pennies on the dollar for electricity users if it is approved.

The key word is “if.” Another proposal in Edison’s “rate case” before the utility commission would have Islanders pay with a water rate increase.

While Edison is primarily in the electricity business, the power company provides also drinking water and gas to the residents of Catalina.

Harvey gave the Avalon City Council an overview of the power company’s rate case before the PUC on Tuesday, Feb. 1. Avalon is the only incorporated city on the Island.

Harvey said the request to increase Catalina’s water rates had two components. One was a request to recover the cost of approximately $15 million in project that Edison has already paid for, in addition to other costs.

Harvy said Southern California Edison is also asking for $2.618 million in operations and maintenance costs. He said the second component is an “alternative proposal” to pass the costs on to electricity users on the mainland for a period of one year.

Avalon Councilman Tim Winslow wanted to know the likelihood of the PUC accepting the proposal. “What do you feel our chances are to snooker these people?” Winslow asked.

“We really strongly feel that this is not a ‘snookering,’ because we think that Catalina Island is a resort destination that the entire service teritory gets to enjoy,” Harvey said.

Harvey said Edison’s argument was that if the cost of the water system improvements would be too much to be born only by Catalina residents.

“The Island could cease to exist,” Harvey said. Businesses couldn’t operate on the Island.

He said Edison has already paid for the improvements.

Winslow said if his sister on the mainland had to pay the increase, he would thank her in person.

Harvey said Public Utility Commission staff indicated the proposal might be accepted, but would need strong approval from Catalina residents to succeed.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Servey, Avalon had a population of 3,100 people during the period 2005-2009. That figure does not include the population of Two Harbors, a private resort community on the Island.

The same survey put the population of Seal Beach at 24,000.

Edison asks state to OK small electric bill increase