Opinion Analysis: Monterey Peninsula Water Management District v. California Public Utilities Commission

January 30, 2016

Guest Blogger, SCOCA Blog

On January 25, 2016, in Monterey Peninsula Water Management District v. California Public Utilities Commission, the California Supreme Court issued its first opinion in over twenty years reviewing a California Public Utilities Commission (“CPUC”) decision. The last time the court spoke on the scope of the CPUC’s jurisdiction—in 1995—it ruled that the CPUC’s otherwise broad authority does not allow it to ignore express statutory directives or other clear restrictions on its authority. Assembly v. Public Utilities Commission (1995) at 103–104. After a long hiatus, the court has again clarified the limitations of the CPUC’s jurisdiction: the CPUC does not have the authority to scrutinize government fees that are collected ministerially through the bills of CPUC-regulated public utilities. In California, virtually all government-imposed utility taxes and fees are collected through the bills of public utilities, whether government-owned (e.g., Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and East Bay Municipal Utility District) or privately owned (e.g., Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Southern California Edison Company, and California-American Water Company).

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