Rep. Speier against PG&E's proposed rate increase

August 24, 2012 9:20:01 AM PDT
Regulators are considering whether to grant PG&E's request for a rate increase to cover upgrading its pipeline system around California. Meanwhile, Congresswoman Jackie Speier just the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) a letter, saying she doesn't want ratepayers to get stuck with the bill.

The Crestmoor neighborhood, devastated by a PG&E pipeline explosion two years ago, is one big construction site right now. Not only are many homes being rebuilt, but the neighborhood's entire infrastructure is, too.

PG&E has done a lot of work across its entire pipeline system since the explosion, but there is another, separate upgrade plan in the works. The utility company wants ratepayers to pay for most it -- $5.25 billion over three years. That means the average homeowners monthly utility bill would go from $135 to $157.

Speier sent a letter to the CPUC, urging them to adopt a mistake-driven analysis of who pays for what. She does not offer a specific percentage, but says, "I believe that very few of the costs should be borne by ratepayers."

PG&E says shareholders have already paid for upgrades, testing, and replacement to meet existing regulations to meet existing regulations in 2010 and 2011. But now, there are new laws.

"Any new work that is done to meet new regulations is outlined in our pipeline safety enhancement plan, and that's why we're seeking ratepayer assistance with," PG&E spokesperson Brittany Chord said.

San Bruno resident Fred Gillen is not in favor of the rate increase. He asks, "Where did all of the money we've paid over the years gone? To their upper echelon folks and these big golden umbrellas."

Speier's new letter is a follow-up to one she sent in March. She says she wanted to make her position clear. And, she thinks CPUC President Michael Peevey should be removed because of his past as a utility executive, "I think he's really not the right person to have that power and that position," Speier said. "And I have felt that way for some time."

The CPUC says Peevey has held a number of positions outside of his job as a utility executive. The rate increase vote is not expected until October.


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