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San Diego -- Joined by consumer advocate Ralph Nader, representatives of Californiaís leading consumer groups urged the public to join them in battling a $28.5 billion ìutility taxî which is scheduled to be imposed on residential ratepayers starting next January 1 for the next ten years to bailout utility companies from expensive nuclear powerplants.

Appearing at the news conference were Nader, Harry Snyder of Consumers Union, Nettie Hoge of TURN (The Utility Reform Network), Michael Shames of UCAN (Utility Consumer Action Network) and Harvey Rosenfield, the author of 1988 insurance rollback Proposition 103.

The campaign against the utility tax -- part of a sweetheart deal worked out between the utility companies, big commercial energy users and various other interest groups last year in Sacramento -- began today with a full page advertisement in the New York Times by consumer advocate Rosenfield. The ad announced the creation of a new project, Californians against Utility Taxes, or CUT, to help organize public opposition to the bailout.

Nader said, "This is an issue of national concern. Utility companies must pay for their nuclear decisions, decisions that imperil the health and safety of future generations in order to fatten the profits for Wall Street."

Rosenfield said: "Instead of ensuring that Californiaís artificially inflated rates dropped to market levels under deregulation, this new law keeps utility rates 50% higher than the national average for five years. Moreover, instead of forcing utility companies and their shareholders to be responsible for their poor judgment, the bill shifts the costs of nuclear and other uneconomic plans back onto the residential ratepayer."

"What's perhaps most disingenuous is the Legislatureís crude attempt to trick the public, legislators ordered a 10% rate cut for four years, which ratepayers themselves will pay for. In effect, the Legislature is forcing homeowners to pay $9 for every $1 of refund. You donít have to be a mathematician to understand that this is one of the greatest swindles ever."

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