Pacific Gas and Electric Company is proposing to raise customer rates to help pay for new natural gas pipelines. But a consumer advocacy group says the utility company can do the job without more money from ratepayers.
PG&E says it'll cost just over a billion dollars to upgrade and modernize the safety and reliability of its gas delivery system. John Marshall with the utility company says if each customer would pay about $5.00 more a month, the project would be paid for.
"While no one wants a rate increase we think this is affordable and long term a good bargain for our customers."
But The Utility Reform Network, or TURN - a consumer advocacy group, is opposed to any rate hikes. Mark Toney with TURN says customers already pay their fare share for a safe system.
"It's reasonable that ratepayers pay a part of the bill," says Toney. "But shareholders and executives need to pay their fair share too."
But Marshall says the project is so massive that everyone, including ratepayers, will have to contribute. "Our shareholders over the last three years have already spent or committed $2.7 billion on upgrading our gas infrastructure,” says Marshall, “which is an extraordinary amount of money; it's over three years of our annual profits."
The California Public Utility Commission is holding a public meeting on the proposed rate hike in Sacramento tomorrow. It’s one of ten meetings the CPUC is holding throughout Northern California over the next month. Earlier this year, a federal grand jury indicted PG&E for violating federal gas pipeline regulations in the wake of the fatal 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion.