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May 16, 2008 - 04:30 PM

Greasing the Wheels

by John M. Simpson
Chevron Corp. just gave $100,000 to Gov. Schwarzenegger's Dream Team Committee making the oil giant the 14th biggest contributor to Arnold since 2003. Chevron has given his various committees a total of $765,800. The most recent infusion of cash came on May 5 just before the Public Utilities Commission signed off on a whopping 89.7 percent rate increase for the Chevron-owned water company serving the tiny hamlet of Casmalia.

Susan Kennedy, the governor's chief of staff, used to be a PUC commisioner and still retains huge clout at the agency. So, was there a quid pro quo when the commission approved the rate increase May 15, the same day the gift was made public?

More likely Chevron was just routinely greasing the wheels of government, ensuring access as usual. After all, the oil giant had asked for a 138 percent increase in Casmalia. But Chevron's big-money status in the Schwarzenegger administration and Kennedy's PUC access, make suspicion come easy.

Folks in the Central Coast town, who say the soaring water rates may kill their community, will see average monthly rates rise from $115 to $148 immediately. They're set to hit $216 a month in 2010. That's in a place where the average median household income is around $30,000. Nearly 9 percent of median household income would ultimately go to pay Chevron's water bill.

The old adage you get what you pay for seems to hold true for Chevron, though not for customers of its water company. If you live in Casmalia, then Chevron shafts you at the gas pump and then a second time when you drink a glass of water.

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