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Sempra CA Utilities File $462 Million, 6-Year Rate Case

Seeking an unprecedented time frame of six years to lock in its general retail gas and electric utility charges, including profit levels, Sempra Energy's two California utilities Friday filed joint general rate case proposals to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), seeking increases of $251.9 million for San Diego Gas and Electric Co. and $211.million for Southern California Gas Co. operations, representing increases of 4% to 7%.

For the San Diego-based combination utility operations, SDG&E is asking for an average 7% increase in retail natural gas utility rates for the typical residential customer, whose monthly bill would increase an average of $3.90. For SDG&E electric utility customers the increase sought averages about 4.4%,. or $5.50/month, for the typical residential customer.

Los Angeles-based SoCalGas asked for an average increase of 4%, or$2.40/month, for the typical natural gas utility residential customer among its nearly 20 million customers served through 5.6 million gas meters. SDG&E serves 3.4 million customers overall through 1.3 million electric meters and 825,000 natural gas meters.

Noting this is the first time the utilities have requested their general rate changes to cover a six-year future period, a San Diego-based Sempra utilities' spokesperson said when looking at the proposed rate change for test year 2008, the amounts being requested are less than the actual and projected inflation for the 24-month period of 2006-2008. Internal efficiencies and cost-cutting within the two utilities allows them to keep the increase below the projected inflation levels, the spokesperson said.

SD&GE is proposing to increase its current natural gas revenues from $224.6 million to $263.6 million annually, and its electricity rate base from $956 million to $1.169 billion. SoCalGas has proposed to increase it revenue requirement to $1.793 billion from $1.582 billion.

The CPUC will hold hearings next year, including public hearings in several Southern California cities where the utilities operate before making a decision late in 2007.

"Like many businesses, we are experiencing higher costs to meet stricter government regulations, new environmental mandates and rising expenses for raw materials," said Michael Niggli, Sempra utilities COO. "Our focus is on maintaining excellent service for our customers both now and in the future."

Maintenance and capital improvements at both utilities were stated as part of the reason for the filings, which had been flagged earlier in the year in a 'notice-of-intent" that the utilities made with the CPUC. Generally, the utilities cited three broad areas that the added funding will be directed to:

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