PG&E Convinces Judge to Shut Out Customers- Again

The judge overseeing PG&E’s bankruptcy today ruled in favor of the company in denying representation of ratepayer voices in the massive legal proceeding.  Although customers are PG&E’s sole source of income, and have the most at stake in the case, PG&E argued strenuously that they should be shut out, as it had during a previous bankruptcy in 2001.  In the previous case, customers ended up footing the bill for $8 billion in corporate debt, while stockholders paid a little over $1 billion, and saw their dividends quickly restored.

TURN executive director Mark Toney said he suspected PG&E would try to use the bankruptcy court to circumvent laws that protect consumers from paying billions of dollars in wildfire damage due to negligence by the company. “This process doesn’t look fair to us,” he said.  “Wall Street bankers will be calling the shots, demanding a ratepayer bailout to keep PG&E profitable.  There’s no one in the room to defend customers against Wall Street greed.”

Toney said the ruling underscores the David v Goliath nature of the battle to hold customers harmless for PG&E’s negligence and mismanagement.  “PG&E is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to press its case in bankruptcy court, in criminal court, at the CPUC and in Sacramento.  All of these expensive and expansive efforts have one goal, to stick consumers with billions of dollars in bailouts that are the direct result of criminal acts by PG&E.”

Toney said consumer groups were united in their determination to prevent a customer bailout.  A report commissioned by the Governor’s office has warned that such a bailout could cause drastic and unaffordable price spikes for basic electricity.  “The ratepayer committee intends to mount an active opposition to any bankruptcy bailout, even if we have to do it in exile,” he said.  “We may be shut out but we can’t be shut up.”

In addition to TURN, the proposed ratepayer committee would have been comprised of:

*   Public Advocates Office at the CPUC (Cal Advocates)
*   California Large Energy Consumers Association
*   AARP California
*   California Farm Bureau Federation
*   Federated Executive Agencies (Military Bases)
*   Greenlining Institute