Pacific Gas & Electric is not alone in the magnitude of its unfunded liabilities. The Los Angeles Department of Water & Power has a $400 million unfunded pension liability, according to Ron Deaton, department general manager. It also has $1.2 billion in unfunded health care liabilities, he told the department's board of commissioners March 7. The board will take up how to close those gaps in the coming months as it works out the department's budget. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District contributed $9 million last year toward its employee retirement fund, said Dace Udris, muni spokesperson. Contributions this year will rise to $20.9 million. The agency's budget says one reason is that "a significant number of employees, including supervisors, will be retiring in the next five years." The contributions are made easier by a rate increase a year ago. Southern California Edison would be able to fund its pension plan with $48.6 million of ratepayer money this year under a proposed decision by CPUC administrative law judge David Fukutome in its test-year 2006 general rate case. "We will not require [Edison] ratepayers to fund more than that," wrote Fukutome. He noted, "according to Edison, its workforce is rapidly aging, with the over-50 population having doubled since 1998." Earlier this week, the commission held over the judge's proposed decision for consideration until next month. Edison's pension fund had a negative balance of $119 million at the end of 2005 based on projected needs, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Its fund for projected other retirement benefits was $702 million short. Together, the utility's funds for retirees had a negative balance of $821 million. The company said in its 2005 10-K statement that it plans to contribute $51 million to its pension plan this year and $77 million toward its other retirement benefits fund, which primarily covers health and life insurance. While the value of Edison's pension fund is below its projected obligation to retirees, its balance is a positive $70 million, compared to accumulated benefit obligations, the company said in a statement issued to Circuit by spokesperson Gil Alexander. Accumulated obligations are based on current wages, while projected obligations take into account future wage and salary increases. Company contributions to retiree pension and benefit plans are funded through rates, Edison said. \t Sempra utilities are in better shape. SoCal Gas?s retirement benefit plans are fully funded. However, San Diego Gas & Electric?s unfunded pension plan liability is $146 million and its unfunded liability for health care and other retirement benefits is $123 million, for a total of $269 million in unfunded liabilities. Pension and other retirement benefit costs are projected to grow. To close the gap, SDG&E is making a contribution of $25 million in ratepayer money this year, said Doug Kline, SDG&E spokesperson. One reason Sempra utilities may have lower unfunded pension liability levels is that the company converted to a cash-balance retirement plan that allegedly resulted in retirement benefit cuts to older employees, according to Don Wood, Pacific Energy Policy Center senior policy adviser. The change prompted a group of former employees to file a lawsuit last summer in a federal district court. "They're going to look okay because they've hidden the money," said Wood. If the employees win their suit or the CPUC orders the utilities to refund the money to ratepayers, the two utilities? pension funds likely will face a crisis, he said. In an e-mail containing talking points regarding the controversy over the plan distributed internally at Sempra, Kline wrote: "The low-interest rate environment has resulted in lower than expected growth in the cash-balance accounts. However, the company also provides employees with a 401k savings plan including a company match in Sempra Energy common stock, the value of which has increased significantly over the past few years."