EL CENTRO, Calif. - The California Public Utilities Commission voted Thursday to increase PG&E gas and electric bills. The average residential bill will be an additional $32.62 a month. Low-income CARE bills will rise by $21.66 additional dollars for next year.
CPUC voted on PG&E's "massive" rate hike. It also approved a proposal to take away many benefits given to solar power system owners to increase utility company incomes even further.
Though PG&E was the main subject of the meeting, the CPUC vote was held in El Centro, 600 miles from CPUC's San Francisco headquarters. Nonetheless, PG&E's rate increase drew a lot of fiery public comment by phone.
"You cannot give any rate increases to investor-owned utility power companies like the convicted felon PG&E," said Patricia Blevins.
"PG&E is guilty of criminal neglect and manslaughter. Their fiery greed burns Californians alive in their homes," said Alan Marling.
"They have devastated, they have incinerated communities, killed people, already raised rates multiple times," said Jessica Tovar.
Residents in El Cerrito had similar things to say but in more muted tones.
"It's already high. PG&E is just a huge expense for people, and I'm looking for solar to be honest with you," said PG&E customer Craig Elvin.
"I think they've been bailed out a lot by the government, and they're gonna be bailed out by regular people like us. They're probably too big to fail," said customer Makha Blu Wakpa."
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"I just think it's long overtime for California to have a public utility," said Rick Cantora.
Even more venom was aimed at the utilities commission itself.
"You're still doing the bidding of the monopolies you are supposed to regulate and not protecting the public as is your charter. Do your damn job or find yourself as distrusted and hated as the Supreme Court," said customer David Rinerson.
"You represent only the interest of the utility companies and are, most likely, being financially rewarded for advancing their proposals," said customer Rob Hauley.
PG&E sees and The Utility Reform Network see it all very differently.
"The Commission didn't fully fund our proposal but, we are committed to delivering on the critical safety and reliability work on behalf of our customers that was approved by the Commission," said PG&E spokesperson Lynsey Paulo.
"Which we think is more than necessary to provide safe and reliable service," said the Utility Reform Network Attorney Katy Morsony." In the last couple of years, we have reduced wildfire risk in our system by about 94 percent," said PG&E’s Paulo.
"We just see rate increase after rate increase after rate increase really when customers can't bear to take on more," said the network's Morsony.
On top of all the recent rate increases, these newest higher rates become effective on New Year's Day.