Pacific Gas & Electric customers may see a $10 increase in their bills starting in 2020, and an increase of $20 over the next three years, based on the utility giant’s latest proposal to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

More than half of PG&E’s requested $1.058 billion in increased revenues from ratepayers in 2020 would “bolster wildfire prevention, risk monitoring and emergency response,” Robert Kenney, PG&E vice president of Regulatory Affairs, told CPUC judges at a July 17 public hearing in Stockton – the second of nine meetings to be held in PG&E’s service area. “It will also add and enhance new safety measures, it will increase vegetation management and it will harden our electric system to increase resiliency and to help further reduce the risk of wildfire.”

The rest of the increases would be used to cover liability insurance costs due to increased risks of wildfire ($273 million), in addition to gas and electric equipment upgrades ($205 million), according to a pamphlet passed out at the meeting.

None of the money will be allocated for executive compensation, and none of it will fund wildfire claims involved in the company’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy process, Kenney added.

The role of the assigned judges, Rafael Lirag and Elaine Lau, is to review PG&E’s application and, based on the evidence and testimony put forth in public hearings, propose a decision for the CPUC’s five commissioners.

“The purpose of today’s meeting is for us to listen to your comments,” Lau told the roughly 10 to 15 people in attendance at the California State Building in Downtown Stockton. “We want to hear about how PG&E’s application affects you, your family and your community.”

At the hearing, multiple speakers vocally opposed the rate hike, citing the strain it would put on low-income, elderly and disabled community members.

Constance Slider Pierre, organizing director of The Utility Reform Network (TURN), a San Francisco-based utility watchdog, encouraged those in attendance to speak up and share how the extra $20 per month would impact them.

“Tell the commission how current energy costs affect you, what trade-offs you have been forced to make, what trade-offs you will be forced to make and what measures you will have to take to reduce costs and conserve energy,” Pierre said.

Stating TURN’s opposition to the rate increase, Pierre said that the proposal would grow PG&E’s revenues by 23% from 2019 rates and create a $2 billion annual increase for the company by 2022. It also comes on top of “other taxpayer increases currently being proposed by PG&E that would authorize a 60% profit margin increase to shareholders while forcing ratepayers to pay billions for additional tree trimming and costs associated with wildfires caused by PG&E’s negligence,” Pierre added.

Pierre was referring to a cost-of-capital rate increase proposal, PG&E spokeswoman Brandi Merlo confirmed on July 18.

Stockton resident Sylvia Manteuful told judges the rate increases would compound the struggles many residents are already facing with rising costs of rent, among other expenses.

“I’m in my 70s, I don’t have much of a pension … we just want to take care of what’s ours, and it doesn’t seem fair when we have to give and give and give … I have no idea how much longer we are going to be able to take this,” Manteuful said.

Unreasonable requests for rate increases are nothing new for PG&E, according to TURN Communications Director Mindy Spatt.

“Every single time PG&E has a rate case, it comes to the PUC and customers and says, ‘this is how much money we need to provide you with safe and reliable service,’ and yet no matter how many times CPUC has agreed to these rate hikes, not only are we not getting safe and reliable service, we’re getting the least safe and reliable service in the U.S.A.,” Spatt said in a July 18 phone interview. “No matter how many times PG&E makes those promises, nothing seems to be getting better.”

The CPUC will make its decision on the rate hike in August.

Customers can submit written comments to public.advisor@cpuc.ca.gov.

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Reporter

Davis graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in Environmental Studies. He covers environmental issues, agriculture, fire and local government. Davis spends his free time playing guitar and hiking with his dog, Penny.

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