SAN FRANCISCO – Captive customers of Pacific Gas & Electric in California face yet another rate hike from the reviled utility, which is lobbying state officials behind the scenes to approve the increase. If regulators approve it, the hike could add up to an additional $1.8 billion to how much PG&E's 16 million ratepayers are already charged.
On November 16, the California Public Utilities Commission, or CPUC, will decide on two proposals for the steep rate hike put forward by PG&E. It’s bad news for ratepayers already paying sky-high monthly utility bills.
PG&E has quietly been talking with state electricity regulators to convince them to approve the hike, according to a report by the Mercury News. Following a recent delay in the CPUC’s decision, PG&E officials met privately with commission staff, lobbying to charge its 16 million ratepayers another $1.8 billion.
“PG&E insists its influence-peddling at the public utility commission is perfectly legal, which brings to mind journalist Michael Kinsley’s rule of scandals: The scandal isn’t what’s illegal, the scandal is what’s legal,” said Environmental Working Group President and Bay Area resident Ken Cook.
Some of the money raised through the hike could be used to prop up the company’s credit rating on Wall Street to the benefit of investors, according to a press release issued by the consumer advocacy organization, The Utility Reform Network.
A PG&E spokesperson told the Mercury News the utility’s lobbying of the CPUC is part of the “general rate case” and claimed “there is nothing secret about this.”
California ratepayers are all too familiar with electricity bill rate increases forced on them by PG&E. The utility continues to fleece its captive customers while grappling with a host of bad decisions, including inadequate maintenance leading to the devastating wildfire in 2018 that caused widespread destruction in the town of Paradise and led to 85 deaths.
“Allowing the sole company in California with its own rap sheet of more than 80 counts of manslaughter to wield such access and influence over its own regulators is outrageous,” said Cook.
Under one proposal pending with the CPUC, an average residential customer dependent on PG&E for both electric and gas services could face an alarming $31.13 spike in their monthly bills. The other proposal could lead to an average increase of $25.25 per month.
If the CPUC rubber-stamps either of the proposals, they would translate to staggering rate hikes of 12.5 percent and 9.9 percent, respectively. This would place additional, substantial financial strain on PG&E ratepayers, who are already grappling with some of the nation's highest electric bills, Cook noted.
“If the CPUC goes along with either of the proposed rate hikes being peddled by PG&E, it would deal a significant financial blow to millions of working families in the state, underscoring the extent of the company’s control over regulatory decisions," said Cook.
“But we can’t count on the CPUC to act in the best interests of consumers when it has been house-broken for decades not to leave a mess on PG&E’s balance sheet,” he added.
Ratepayer frustration has reached new heights over the increase in PG&E bills that’s astonishingly disproportionate to the Bay Area’s inflation rate, the Mercury News reports. Over a three-year period, PG&E bills have surged by 38 percent, a stark contrast to the Bay Area inflation rate’s 11.7 percent rise during the same period.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.
Editor's note: This release has been updated to clarify that ratepayers face an additional $1.8 billion charge on top of PG&E's larger rate case proposals.