Will ratepayers foot the bill for PG&E's bankruptcy?

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy could have a trickle-down effect on PG&E customers in the form of higher bills. There's also a chance the 20,000 employees of PG&E could feel an impact.

Let me start with the immediate impact. You'll get your gas and electricity the same way you always have.

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As for any impacts on the bills you pay, that remains a real possibility.

While history doesn't always repeat itself, we can learn a lot from the past.

PG&E last filed for bankruptcy in 2001.

The utility had lost its credit.

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It did not have any money to purchase the energy needed to power the homes and businesses of its customers.

The California Department of Water Resources stepped in to purchase the power for them by orders of then Governor Gray Davis.

Mark Toney, executive director of The Utility Reform Network, says consumers are still paying for that purchase today.

"The PG&E customers ended up paying about $6.5 billion dollars for the power that was purchased on PG&E's behalf," said Toney.

In fact, we're still paying for it.

Look at your bill.

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The line item under DWR Bond Charge is a monthly fee you are still paying as a result.

The history of the bankruptcy is better for PG&E employees.

During the 2001 bankruptcy, the IBEW union tells us workers lost no pay and no benefits.

A spokesperson called the risk of lost pay, retirement and other benefits a "low probability but high risk" issue.

It's one they remain concerned about.

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One employee who received a big windfall is former CEO Geisha Williams.

She resigned Sunday prior to the bankruptcy announcement.

Bloomberg reports she received a severance between $2.3 million and $4.46 million.

"They're so broke. But they're still giving a $2.5 million dollar golden parachute to a CEO whose tenure has been less than successful," said Toney of TURN.

One additional tidbit. If you're expecting a rebate from PG&E for insulating your home or purchasing an electric vehicle, that rebate should not be affected. TURN says PG&E has a dedicated revenue source via customer rates.

See more stories, photos and videos on PG&E.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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