PG&E crews carry out repair work in Paradise, CA

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PG&E Wants To Charge Customers More For Wildfire Prevention

Margie Shafer
December 14, 2018 - 10:43 am

PG&E is asking regulators at the California Public Utilities Commission for the okay to charge customers higher rates that would raise more than $1 billion for the utility. 

Under the proposed increase, which would be in effect from 2020 to 2022, the typical gas and electric customer's bill would go up by 6.4 percent  — an average of $10.57 per month. That would add up to almost $127 per year per customer. 

State Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) calls it an outrage.

"This is an extraordinary amount of money," he said. "They're already charging us almost the highest rates in the country, and to add this to it, I find it obscene." 

PG&E says most of the extra money would be used to beef up the utility's wildfire safety program. The expansion plans involve installing more resilient poles across 2,000 miles of high-fire risk areas, keeping lines clear of tree branches, adopting technology to allow crews to respond quickly to fallen lines and increasing its network of weather stations. 

Key safety issues like these have been neglected for years, Hill said. CalFire determined that a deadly fire in Yuba County started from gusty winds knocking down PG&E's power lines. 

"We need to make increased resources available to improve those," he said. "I just want to make sure that none of that money is going to bail out PG&E. The amount of this seems very excessive, and I just hope the CPUC uses their due diligence and does their job."

The proposal does not request funding for potential claims connected to wildfires in 2017 and 2018. A Southern California assemblyman has floated the idea of introducing legislation that would shield PG&E from liability if investigators blame it for starting this year's deadly Camp Fire that killed 85 people in Butte County. 

Rate increases require CPUC approval, and public hearings will be held across the state in the coming year. 

PG&E has submitted another request for CPUC approval: It also wants customers to pay an additional $24 per year to cover costs associated with decommissioning the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in San Luis Obispo County.  

Written by Diana Shook