LADWP Ratepayer Advocate Selected

By Richie Duchon, City News Service

A citizens committee on Tuesday named the head of a Los Angeles energy consulting firm to be the city’s first ratepayer advocate tasked with monitoring water and power rate increases proposed by the Department of Water and Power.

On a 5-0 vote, the search panel chose Frederick H. Pickel to be the executive director of the Office of Public Accountability.

Pickel, president of Wilshire Energy Consulting Group, has worked in the gas and electric industry for more than 30 years, both in the public and private sectors, according to a biography on the firm’s website.

Committee Chairman John Murray said the members made their decision with “great thought, great deliberation.”

The committee reviewed the resumes of 58 candidates from across the world and narrowed it down to four finalists.

After rigorous interviews, Pickel was the panel’s top choice, according to committee member John Walker.

“He has a flawless resume, a background indicative of the kind of individual that needs to hold this job,” Walker said. “You’ve got to have answers. You have to have professional and technical abilities to do this job, to both represent the ratepayers and be in council with DWP. This man has that capability.”

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa sent a letter to Pickel yesterday, pressing him and city officials to move quickly to review proposed increases to water and power rates.

“Already the credit agencies have spoken about the department’s need for increased revenue,” Villaraigosa said in the letter. “They have noticed the delay in setting new rates and have acted accordingly to lower the DWP’s credit ratings. Further delays will only further increase the costs to the department, to the city, and ultimately our residents and customers.”

Last March voters approved a charter amendment requiring the creation of an Office of Public Accountability and a ratepayer advocate to be an independent voice on the issue of rates. The charter change was placed on the ballot after a bitter fight between the City Council and LADWP officials over rates in 2010 that caused the department to threaten to withhold a transfer of more than $70 million to the city’s general fund.

Councilwoman Jan Perry, who chairs the Energy and Environment Committee, said Pickel’s resume is excellent, but she looked forward to learning more about his qualifications and what he can bring to the office.

Perry said she expects the Office of Public Accountability “to offer a clear, third party review of rate increases and LADWP programs and investments” to guide the council on everything from infrastructure upgrades to investments in renewable energy.

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January 19, 2012  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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