Climate change fee seen as unfair

May 23, 2008 6:13:21 AM PDT
There's a battle to stop the Public Utilities Commission from adding a new fee to our PG&E bills to pay for something called the Climate Change Institute at U.C. Berkeley.

The group, called T.U.R.N., which stands for The Utility Reform Network, says we should study climate change, but not at the expense of utility customers alone. On Wednesday, the group demanded a halt to the whole project.

Greenhouse gases spew into the air by the tons and the California P.U.C. wants to study how to reduce emissions by creating the Institute for Climate Solutions at U.C. Berkeley.

"To reduce greenhouse gases so our planet survives. This is incredibly important, but the way the P.U.C. is doing it is dead wrong," says Mark Toney, Director of The Utility Reform Network.

The Utility Reform Network is the group filed an appeal on Wednesday to halt a rate increase that would cost consumers $600 million over 10 years to pay for the institute.

"They're using electricity bills like a blank check," says Toney.

P.U.C. President Michael Peevey agrees ratepayers should not have to pay for the institute.

Peevey was not available to speak with us. However, when he proposed the institute back in April, he said, "It is our turn to take bold and immediate action,'' to stop global warming. He continued, "We cannot wait for the legislature to allocate funds.''

T.U.R.N. says it's not fair. For one thing, only customers of four utilities would pay the surcharge. Customers of 35 municipal utilities would not. For instance PG&E customers in Mountain View would pay, but their next door neighbors in Palo Alto would not.

"To really effect climate change in California we have to have all Californians making a contribution. We can't balance climate change on the backs of ratepayers of regulated utilities," says Toney.

T.U.R.N. estimates the average consumer picking up the tab would only pay about $1 a month. Still, pay a dollar here and a dollar there, and pretty soon it turns into quite a fee.

"Every month there is a new increase and the problem is, these things add up over time," says Toney.

A state senate subcommittee is looking at voiding this whole deal. There is concern that the California P.U.C. overstepped its authority. 7 On Your Side will keep track of this and let you know as things progress.


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