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SDG&E; Won’t Appeal Ruling That Allows Study of Possible Takeover

Times Staff Writer

San Diego Gas & Electric will not appeal a Monday Superior Court order that cleared the way for the San Diego County Water Authority to conduct a $100,000 preliminary study on the feasibility of a government takeover of the utility, SDG&E; General Counsel Mary Wood said Wednesday.

The court “has determined that the Water Authority has the right to do a study for some purposes,” Wood said. “We don’t have any problem if they do those things that they have the authority to do.”

“We haven’t heard anything about that, so I couldn’t comment,” CWA spokesman Jim Melton said Wednesday.

Superior Court referee Harold F. Wolters on Monday denied SDG&E;'s request for a preliminary injunction that would have prevented the Water Authority from completing the study by R. W. Beck & Associates, a Seattle-based consulting firm. Wolters also lifted a temporary restraining order that had prohibited the agency from expending more funds on the study.

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In his seven-page ruling, Wolters maintained that the authority can legally use results of the study during the upcoming regulatory review of SDG&E;'s proposed merger with Southern California Edison, or to educate legislators about the municipalization process.

But Wolters cautioned that state laws and regulations place strict limits on what public agencies can study. The Water Authority’s study raised “issues of serious consequence” for the county’s taxpayers and the authority’s board of directors, according to Wolters’ decision.

$1 Million for Study

SDG&E; has urged the Water Authority “to take seriously” the limits that Wolters described in his Monday decision, Wood said. “The worst thing that they could do is take the study and begin to use it to promulgate a takeover of SDG&E;,” Wood said.

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The countywide water agency, which already has spent $25,000 in City of San Diego funds on the study, has budgeted nearly $1 million to complete the study, lobby legislators in Sacramento and pay legal fees.

Although SDG&E; won’t appeal the Superior Court ruling, it has asked Superior Court Presiding Judge Michael Greer to schedule an early trial date for SDG&E;'s Feb. 10 lawsuit. SDG&E;'s suit maintains that the Water Authority lacks the power to own, operate or condemn the assets of SDG&E.;


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