Decision (D.) 00-06-075, which approved the application of SCWC to establish a single set of consolidated tariffs - or "regional rates" - for its Region III service territory,1 also ordered SCWC to file this application. The Commission stated:
Cost averaging may not by itself satisfy the Legislature's requirement to make available an adequate supply of healthful water at an affordable cost. (Pub. Util. Code § 701.10.) In response to ratepayer comments at the eight public participation hearings, we are directing SCWC to prepare a lifeline rate plan for Region III to mitigate the effects of high rates on low-income families. We will require SCWC to submit such a plan to the Commission for our review within 90 days of the date of today's decision. (D.00-06-075, mimeo, at 29; see also, Ordering Paragraph 4, emphasis added.)
This direction is consistent with Pub. Util. Code § 739.8, effective January 1, 1993, which provides:
739.8. (a) Access to an adequate supply of healthful water is a basic necessity of human life, and shall be made available to all residents of California at an affordable cost.
(b) The commission shall consider and may implement programs to provide rate relief for low-income ratepayers.
(c) The commission shall consider and may implement programs to assist low-income ratepayers in order to provide appropriate incentives and capabilities to achieve water conservation goals.
(d) In establishing the feasibility of rate relief and conservation incentives for low-income ratepayers, the commission may take into account variations in water needs caused by geography, climate and the ability of communities to support these programs. (Emphasis added.)
Accordingly, on September 21, 2000, SCWC filed this application. As originally filed, the application proposed a lifeline rate program for residential water customers in SCWC's Region III service territory, and requested authority to file for subsequent advice letter approval of similar programs in SCWC's Region I and Region II service territories. Region II includes a number of Los Angeles basin communities, served under separate but consistent tariff schedules.2 Region I consists of seven disparate community service areas, or districts, in central and northern California.3
On December 21, 2000, the Commission issued D.00-12-063, denying SCWC's Application (A.) 98-09-040, which sought authority to implement a regional rate structure in Region I. Since SCWC's voluntary Region I lifeline rate proposal had been conditioned upon establishment of a consolidated tariff schedule there, the Assigned Commissioner granted SCWC's subsequent request to withdraw the Region I proposal, but stated:
However, ORA [the Office of Ratepayer Advocates] may offer testimony in this proceeding to develop the position that the Commission should require SoCalWater [SCWC] to propose a lifeline rate for Region I and may suggest a timeline for the filing of such an application. (February 8, 2001 Assigned Commissioner's Ruling, at 2.)
Evidentiary hearing occurred before the assigned administrative law judge (ALJ) in San Francisco on June 20, 2001. The ALJ submitted this proceeding for decision on August 13, 2001, upon the filing of concurrent reply briefs.1 Region III includes the eight SCWC districts or customer service areas that provide water service to all or portions of the following southern California communities in the Los Angeles area and the surrounding high desert: Barstow, Claremont, Alamitos, Placentia, and Yorba Linda), San Dimas, San Gabriel, and Wrightwood. 2 Region II, also referred to as the Metropolitan District, provides water service in the cities of Gardena, Hawaiian Gardens, Hawthorne, Huntington Park, Inglewood, Lakewood, La Mirada, Lawndale, Long Beach, Norwalk, Paramount, Santa Fe Springs, South Gate, and in the communities of Athens, Lennox, Moneta, and Willowbrook. 3 Region I includes the SCWC districts that provide water service to the following communities: Arden-Cordova, Santa Maria, Ojai, Bay Point, Clearlake, Simi Valley and Los Osos.