L.A.'s ratepayer advocate backs hikes in electricity charges
The ratepayer advocate appointed to bring more transparency to utility bill hikes at Los Angeles' Department of Water and Power gave his blessing Wednesday to a proposed 11% electricity rate increase.
Fred Pickel, who was appointed in February to the office created by voters last year, told the utility's board of commissioners that the increase is necessary to pay for capital improvements mandated by state and federal law.
Over two years, the rate increase would add about $3.55 per month to the typical residential bill, and about $18.60 per month to a high-use residential bill, according to DWP officials.
The ratepayer advocate’s report drew little argument from Jack Humphreville, a longtime critic of the DWP and its policies. Although he wanted to hear more from Pickel on long-term electricity rates and the DWP’s yearly payment to the city budget, Humphreville said, he generally agrees with his overall conclusion.
“I think the increase is reasonable given the circumstances facing the DWP, which is that they’re getting slammed by environmental regulations and people are paying for past sins -- not maintaining the infrastructure,” he said.
Pickel plans to release his review of the utility's proposed water rate increase next week. The City Council is scheduled to vote on both rate proposals in late September.
Pickel generally was complimentary of the DWP, which he said had been forthcoming and helpful during his rate analysis. Still, he said, the department must do more to reduce labor costs in the future, adding that DWP employees are paid much more than workers at other utilities.
-- Kate Linthicum and David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall
Photo: Workers repair a broken Los Angeles Department of Water and Power main. Credit: Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times