PUC to Seek Rehearing on Billing Inserts

Times Staff Writer

The state Public Utilities Commission on Friday will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider a February ruling in which the court prohibited commissioners from forcing Pacific Gas & Electric to include messages from a San Francisco consumer group in its monthly billing envelopes.

In a 5-3 ruling on Feb. 25, the justices freed PG&E; from a PUC regulation which gave Toward Utility Rate Normalization (TURN) access to PG&E;'s monthly billing inserts.

The decision also prohibited San Diego-based Utility Consumers Action Network (UCAN) from continuing to place its inserts in San Diego Gas & Electric's monthly billing envelopes. UCAN had used the inserts to build its membership to 80,000 SDG&E; customers.

"We think that there are good grounds for pursuing this rehearing," said PUC attorney Mark Fogelman. "We will be filing a petition for rehearing later this week."

Factual Matters

Fogelman said the PUC wants to "point out that there were certain factual matters which we don't believe were fully understood" by the court.

"We think the judgment rests on a perception of the facts which is not completely correct," Fogelman said. "We want to make clear our position on what we think the true facts of the case are."

"There's no question (the justices) didn't understand it," said Michael Shames, UCAN's executive director. "They just got the facts wrong."

The petition will be filed on behalf of the PUC as well as TURN, Common Cause, the California Consumers Union and a handful of other consumer groups that functioned as "friends of the court" in the original Supreme Court case.

Observers said the odds are stacked against gaining a rehearing. "(The justices) usually only grant rehearings on once-in-a-lifetime issues," said an attorney familiar with the high court.

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