SACRAMENTO – Today California Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks) introduced a bill to repeal legislative language that requires state utility regulators to enact an “electric tax” on ratepayers who are already facing sky-high bills. Irwin was joined by several other members of the Assembly and two members of the Senate at a press conference today announcing the legislation.
Irwin’s proposed legislation would roll back the utility tax and call for hearings to investigate why electricity costs are soaring under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s handpicked California Public Utilities Commission, or CPUC. The commission routinely approves plans developed by Pacific Gas & Electric and the state’s other two largest utilities to soak more money from ratepayers.
The tax provision was slipped into the state’s annual budget in June 2022, so the CPUC was required to implement the tax. The controversial language was buried in omnibus legislation known as a budget trailer bill so that lawmakers were not likely to see it. It was ultimately approved by both the Senate and Assembly.
The existing law mandates that the CPUC initiate a fixed monthly charge, or tax, on utility customers and that it be based on an income-graduated scale. The CPUC is considering a charge of up to $70 a month – orders of magnitude more than any other state’s. This means that even if a household conserves by using solar or hanging out the clothes to dry in the sun, they cannot avoid a large fixed charge in the hundreds of dollars per year.
“A growing number of members of the state legislature, led by Assemblymember Irwin, are standing up to the profit-fueled utilities and the captured CPUC,” said EWG President and California resident Ken Cook. “Californians deserve more leadership like hers, instead of the usual groveling before PG&E and the rest of the power company cabal.”
The utility-backed tax provision from June 2022 is cynically designed to pad the profits of PG&E and the other two investor-owned utilities in the state. It has drawn a widespread outcry from the public, as well as from clean energy and consumer advocacy groups.
“The CPUC is clearly beholden to the utilities. But it must be held accountable. The legislature should reverse its own flawed decision to prevent the commission from shackling captive ratepayers statewide to punishing utility rates,” he said.
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.