Before there was an intervenor compensation program, a few \u201cconcerned citizens\u201d confronted utilities at the California Public Utilities Commission on their own time & dime. While couch surfing and hitching rides to and from commission meetings many intervenors in the 1970s & \u201880s strategized how to get financial, social, and environmental protections into the policy process. It wasn\u2019t about money. It was about justice. There were a few diehards, like Silvia Siegel, the mother of The Utility Reform Network. She donated her time and expertise to opening up the regulatory process--dominated by well-funded utilities--and making it more consumer-aware. Anyone could participate in commission proceedings. You didn\u2019t (& still don\u2019t) need a degree. But, before intervenor fees became a tiny part of monthly utility bills, you needed dedication, time, and resources to make a difference. Over the last few decades intervenors in utility regulatory dockets--citizens and organizations--have honed their skills. Times have changed. Theoretically, the public can still be heard in evidentiary hearings without lawyers, guns, or money. But lawyers and money are essential ingredients to be taken seriously by the commission. Ratepayer and environmental interests can be represented by those who are independent of utilities, the Division of Ratepayer Advocates, and even professional consumer advocates whose agenda may diverge from non-financial interests. Individuals with impressive knowledge in arcane areas--nuclear decommissioning, \u201csmart\u201d meter closed or open architecture, environmental justice--can affect the outcome of commission decisions. If they prevail in the eyes of regulators, they may receive payment for their time and expertise. \u201cThe Intervenor Compensation Program is intended to ensure that individuals and groups that represent residential or small commercial electric utility customers have the financial resources to bring their concerns and interests to the CPUC during formal proceedings,\u201d states the commission. \u201cBy hearing from different perspectives, the CPUC is better able to make informed decisions that consider the impact of utility cost and service on all people of the State of California.\u201d It may be routine for established intervenors to reap $300\/hour payouts. (That rate is below standard legal fees, which typically start at $450\/hour.) The system leads to helpful intervention more often than not. But because it is a system with money involved, it can lead to rip offs. You can get \u201cprofessional consumer advocates\u201d who know the ropes and participate with little heart in the action, while eyeing the payouts. Recently, alleged hubris--combined with a possible lack of checks & balances--led to the demise of the Utility Consumers\u2019 Action Network (UCAN). The organization\u2019s executive director is accused of mismanagement. The Federal Bureau of Investigation subpoenaed records in February. The state Legislature is beginning to look into it too, ordering an audit of the intervenor compensation program by the State Auditor. That audit is not focused on UCAN alone, but on the entire intervenor compensation process. That may be a good thing if kept in perspective. It shouldn\u2019t upset the compensation process that has done more good than harm. Additionally, investigating UCAN alleged mismanagement shouldn\u2019t be treated more harshly than when malfeasance is discovered at utilities, which reap many times more ratepayer dollars. There should be required checks and balances at organizations granted intervenor funds, but it shouldn\u2019t be onerous or overly prescriptive. Intervenors--both individual citizens and organizations--have resulted in less expensive rates and safer and less environmentally harmful outcomes. That includes the creation of decommissioning funds for the state\u2019s nuclear plants, the set-aside of pristine Pacific Gas & Electric watershed lands in perpetuity, fewer fossil-fired plants in disadvantaged polluted communities, and lower Southern California Edison utility bills. Any punishment of UCAN should fit the crime and not damage bona fide intervenor compensation for organizations. An overhauled or new organization to look out for the interest of San Diego ratepayers should be allowed to rise out of UCAN\u2019s ashes. Utilities often get what they want. There\u2019s no review of expenses used on legal teams during commission-related litigation--or outside litigation either. It\u2019s a regulatory doctrine not to question the amount spent on layers of lawyers. That\u2019s why the tale of Erin Brockovich got turned into a movie. The enduring movie script line of the junior PG&E lawyer who told the spunky paralegal that she couldn\u2019t sue PG&E over chrome 6 poisoning in Hinkley because \u201cPG&E\u2019s a $28 billion company\u201d rang with those who feel powerless against utilities. That\u2019s what intervenor fees are for--to empower representation by regular folks who just might have something to add to the mix before regulators make policy decisions. It\u2019s a tribute to those who offer their expertise that they\u2019re not required to hitch hike and couch surf--that they can afford a motel with wifi--in order to play an outsiders\u2019 role in creating utility policy.