PG&E customers sound off over proposed rate hikes

The California Public Utilities Commission held two Public Participation hearings in Santa Rosa on Wednesday regarding Pacific Gas and Electric's request for a billion-dollar rate increase. 

The increase could raise the average customer's bill by $10.57 a month. 

Two administrative law judges heard testimony, while no commissioners attended. The first to speak was the utility's top executive, who's in charge of the legal and public relations departments. 

"Our commitment is to keep customer costs as low as possible while meeting our responsibilities to safely serve all of our customers. even as our changing climate presents new challenges and risks," said John Simon, PG&E executive vice president. 

Then, customers laid in against PG&E. 

"The simple truth is that the high utility rates that have increased dramatically and systematically over the last several years are the result of poor management and lack of looking our for our residents," said Paul Feinstein. 

"We're past the point of 'trust us, we've got this, we know what we're doing.' That has been said over and over again," said Will Abrams. 

John Devers believes PG&E has always tolerated some level of destruction and death because it was more profitable. 

Many people in Coffey Park feel the same way. 

"I think it's unfair. I think it's horrible. I mean, our city has been hit enough," said Terry Cahill, a firestorm victim who now lives her rebuilt home. 

The CPUC, often blamed for being too cozy with PG&E, took hits too. 

"I don't trust anybody in this system in any way, shape or form on how it's going right now," said customer Duane Dewitt. 

"The CPUC allowed PG&E to defer review of required safety plans for over ten years," said Heather Young.     

Young said all of this should be on the shareholders, not overwhelmingly on residential customers.

"Who as I mentioned are most vulnerable and the least able to organize and fight back," she added. 

"PG&E is an ex-con. I think they're in violation of their parole and yet, you're entertaining them as if they were a special guest which, in my view makes you complicit," said Joseph Onate, referring to PG&E's criminal victim for its actions in the deadly 2010 San Bruno gas pipe explosion. 

"SB 901 gave them permission to take wildfire victims of 2017 and charge them a fee for the privilege of burning their homes and murdering their loved ones," said Devers. 

"So, in my view, you have blood on your hands like PG&E," Onate added.

The Tubbs Fires, which destroyed thousands of Santa Rosa homes, was not started by PG&E, but victims from other fires attended. 

There are more public participation hearing scheduled in Fresno and Bakersfield. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: The CPUC told KTVU that three of the five commissioners did attend the 6 p.m. meeting that followed the first meeting at 1 p.m.