Hearings begin on $1.5B PG&E rate increase

Tom DuHain/KCRA

Inside a CPUC rate hearing in Sacramento (Aug. 12, 2014). Read more: http://www.kcra.com/news/hearings-begin-on-15b-pge-rate-increase/27436180#ixzz3AIkbPReI

Pacific Gas and Electric is requesting an increase of $1.5 billion over three years to fund improvements in natural gas transmission and storage.

Utility officials said the increase would cost an average ratepayer about $60 per year. Most of the ratepayers who spoke Tuesday were strongly opposed, especially after the deadly San Bruno natural gas disaster in 2010.

“If you need that much money because your structure has broken down, what were you doing all along?” Amanda Lee asked. “Why am I paying for that?”

PG&E spokeswoman Brandi Ehlers told KCRA 3 that utility shareholders had already committed $2.7 billion toward modernization, and now, ratepayers have to assist as well.

“This case is not about remedying the past,” Ehlers said. “It’s about building and maintaining the infrastructure needed for our 21st century customers.”

But during the hearing, speakers made frequent references to the San Bruno accident.

“We don’t want to pay for San Bruno,” utility activist Constance Pierre said. “These are upgrades that should have been made a long time ago.”

“This is akin to a drunk driver who kills a family, coming back to the survivors and saying, ‘I need a better car,'” ratepayer John Dillon said. “‘If I had a better car, this would not have happened.'”

But not all the testimony was in opposition to the massive rate hike.

Dan Campbell of Teichert Construction said a reliable natural gas supply is essential for the construction business and for the company’s clients.

The owner of American Trailer Company in Tracy said the business provided by PG&E helps support the families of more than 100 employees.

CPUC officials said public testimony will be taken in hearing through early September in locations ranging from Bakersfield to Eureka.

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