Wednesday, Feb. 6, San Francisco--TURN today formally requested that PG&E’s bankruptcy judge appoint an official committee of ratepayers so that the critical interests of 16,100,000 captive PG&E customers are represented. While creditors enjoy a leading role in bankruptcy court, consumers have been shut out in the past.
“Ratepayers have at least as much at stake as any constituency in these chapter 11 cases,” said TURN executive director Mark Toney. “PG&E’s electricity and gas customers generate nearly all of its revenues, and hence are its main source of income. With bondholders, banks and others who are represented by creditors’ committees likely to assert tens of billions of dollars in claims, the court will be making critical decisions about which claims to allow and whether shareholders or consumers will pay them. Customers deserve a seat at the table,” Toney said.
Toney added that the potential sale of PG&E’s assets would also have a huge impact on customers. “It is in creditors interest to sell to the highest bidder,” he explained. “Customers would prefer sale terms that ensure a buyers’ long-term ability to provide good service at reasonable rates, and won’t shirk on safety the way PG&E has.”
Longstanding principles of utility law protect consumers from paying the costs of corporate mistakes and mismanagement. Toney warned that abandonment of that principle by the bankruptcy court could have unintended long-term implications for utility safety. TURN concludes that an official committee comprised of individuals nominated by TURN and the other organizations should become part of the proceeding in order to zealously and effectively represent the interests of PG&E’s ratepayers, and requests the court to appoint one immediately.
Organizations supporting TURN’s request, which was addressed to US Trustee Donna Tamanaha and Attorney Lynette Kelly, include:
- Public Advocates Office at the CPUC (Cal Advocates)
- AARP California
- California Farm Bureau Federation
- Sierra Club
- Greenlining Institute