PG&E looks to charge ratepayers for pipeline improvements


PG&E's highest ranking executive in charge of gas operations, Nick Stavropoulos, and senior vice president of regulatory policy Tom Botorff were in a CPUC hearing room Monday taking questions from lawyers from various groups representing customers' interests.

PG&E is asking the CPUC to approve a $2.2 billion pipeline safety enhancement program, most of it paid for by customers. PG&E says shareholders are paying for bringing PG&E up to current standards, but ratepayers should cover costs of new standards imposed since the deadly 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion.

"It's really important to note what we're not asking ratepayers to fund. We're not asking ratepayers to fund anything that we should have done in the past or anything to meet current standards," said David Eisenhauer

"This is totally unacceptable," said Assm. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo,

Hill says PG&E's $2.2 billion figure doesn't take into account financing and taxes that make the true cost more like $5 billion and Hill objects to the fact that per industry standards, PG&E will be allowed to profit from improvements funded by ratepayers.

"If the Public Utilities Commission approves PG&E's plan, they will make $1.5 billion in profit. Now, I'm urging the PUC to reject PG&E's proposal," said Hill.

PG&E says under its proposal, the average residential customer will pay another $1.85 per month. That may be $1.85 too much for residents of the devastated San Bruno neighborhood, who say a year and a half later, they are still on edge, facing daily reminders of the destruction.

"This could have been prevented. I think in this area especially its going to be very controversial," said Valerie Himura, a San Bruno resident.

"Although $1.85 a month will not break anybody, it's not too much money to ask for, but I think the responsibility is all theirs," said Fahed Salfifi, a San Bruno resident.

The hearing will go for two weeks. The CPUC vote is still months away.

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