PG&E says it will have to increase your rate to pay back fire mitigation costs

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- PG&E says it will have to increase your rate, again.

On Thursday, the California Public Utilities Commission granted a request by the utility company to recovery $373 million dollars-worth of expenses it incurred back in 2016 and 2017.

The when and how have much has not been determined.

PG&E says it had to prune, cut back and remove millions and millions of dead or dying trees in 2016 and 2017 because of the state's severe drought, add to that a bark beetle infestation and some fire mitigation costs.

RELATED: PG&E prices could rise if California wildfires continue

The utility company reported spending $588 million which was not included in their regular maintenance budget,which you and I already pay into.

Here's the explanation from one of the PUC commissioners:

"These costs were incurred in 2016 and 2017 to deal with nine catastrophic events including repairs of damage electric facilities restoration of service after three fires in 2016 and four sets of storms in both 2016 and 2017," said Commissioner Liane Randolph.

On Thursday, the PUC voted to allow PG&E to recover about 63 percent of the cost, in other words roughly $373 million.

PG&E has justified its request for interim rate recovery as a means to "partially smooth rate impacts on customers."

So the PUC clarified, saying customers can expect several increases over time, rather than experience one big rate shock.

Thursday's action outraged TURN, The Utility Reform Network.

"Even if this money was devoted to safety that doesn't mean they did it right because they certainly haven't done things right in the past," expressed Mindy Spatt of TURN.

What PG&E says it spent in 2016 and 2017 will be audited to determine if the costs were reasonable.

"I think the most important rate payer protection here is that we actually need our utilities to be investing and preparing for disasters and on recovering for these disasters," said Martha Guzman Aceves, another PUC Commissioner.

Also in their application, PG&E asked for recovery for forecasted vegetation management costs. This refers to forward-looking, not-yet-incurred costs.

The PUC denied that request.
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