Lax CPUC Approves Unwarranted Rate Hikes for PG&E
Thursday, August 14, San Francisco—A CPUC that has been under fire for its cozy relations with PG&E today agreed to let the company raise rates by a total of $2.4 billion over the next three years. PG&E had originally asked for more than twice that much, claiming the increases were necessary for safety and reliability, claims that TURN and other consumer groups successfully challenged in several instances. But TURN said today the increases were still too high, and were not warranted by safety considerations.
Unfair charges approved by the CPUC that have nothing to do with safety or reliability include $4.8 million in more smart meter spending and $16 million in excessive, unwarranted maintenance costs for Diablo Canyon. The increases come on the heels of $1 billion extra PG&E is already planning to charge customers for overdue pipeline maintenance, and an additional $1 billion PG&E is demanding in another gas rate case. PG&E uses customers’ fears of more San Bruno explosions to justify constantly rising rates, but it is shareholders, not customers, who should pay all costs related to PG&E’s pipeline neglect.
PG&E has not provided an analysis of the combined bill impacts for the three cases together, which will result in customers facing drastically higher bills for essential heat and light, which many cannot afford.
“Today’s CPUC decision alone means PG&E bills, on average, will go up almost $100 a year. If PG&E gets its way, further increases will follow,” said TURN executive director Mark Toney. “That may not seem like a lot of money to a utility executive with a salary of a million or more, but for low-income workers with stagnant wages a few more dollars a month can be huge burden.” Toney said that more customers than ever before have contacted TURN because they are facing dangerous, in some cases deadly, utility shut offs. “PG&E cannot just ignore the dramatic increase in shut-offs,” he said. “Every rate hike exacerbates the problem.”
Toney said the CPUC should not continue to approve higher rates while downplaying their combined impact. “A few dollars here and a few dollars there add up to a huge number of customers being left in the dark” he said. “In June alone, PG&E shut off over 21,000 customers. The public health is threatened when the public can’t afford necessities like heat and light. The CPUC should require PG&E to provide service that is both safe and affordable.”