CPUC votes unanimously to allow PG&E rate hikes

In the California Public Utilities Commission meeting Thursday, the five commissioner's voted unanimously to allow PG&E to add more than a third of a billion dollars to customers' bills.

The utility said it's gratified that the CPUC believed it and granted reasonable and fair request.

"The problem was, there was no reasonableness review. It's kind of the Commission's job to do a reasonableness review before costs can be passed to customers, that didn't happen this time," said Mindy Spatt of The Utility Reform Network (TURN)

The $373 million will be used to pay for PG&E's costs for nine fire, wind and rain events in 2016 and 2017 to restore power, repair facilities and trim trees, remove trees, and clear brush from underneath power lines to prevent future outages and fires.

Customers will soon be paying this off at an average cost of $3.50 a month, over 12 months, starting soon.

"And, they also just asked for what's called a cost of capital increase," said Spatt. That means because PG&E's lowered credit rating makes its borrowing costs higher, it will pass those increased on to customers.

This just approved rate increased doesn't include any damage from the massive fires of 2018 which will generate its own, additional, emergency rate request. And on top of that, every three years, PG&E files what's called a General Rate Request and that one, as currently submitted, could add another $20 a month to your bill.

"Ultimately, PG&E is gonna keep hitting us with million and billion dollar projects that it claims is for fire safety. The question is: what happened to the money we've been paying you all along?" said Spatt.

Since the five commissioners voted unanimously for the increase, they apparently trust that PG&E not only needs the money, but will spend it as requested.

"PG&E has never given us any reason to trust them and I don't think any customer does trust them at this point. The question is: why does the Public Utilities Commission trust them?" said Spatt.

The only string attached to this latest increase is that if PG&E is later proven to have not used this money for what it requests customers will be entitled to a refund.