PG&E’s “New Normal”
After multiple bankruptcies, criminal convictions, safety violations, leadership changes and customer funded bailouts PG&E still cannot get its act together. Despite repeated promises by new management, we are seeing the same old propensity for sparking destruction. The repeated failures are reigniting the all too familiar doubts of PG&E’s ability to deliver electricity safely, without starting catastrophic fires.
PG&E is all too eager to blame climate change for their challenges while failing to take responsibility for the company’s repeated missteps. The simple truth of the matter is, we are all now paying for years of neglect and improper maintenance of the PG&E electricity system. For decades, shareholder profits were placed above safety and reliability. Now we are all paying the price for excessive shareholder profits. Devastating deaths, ongoing destruction and exorbitant and continually rising electricity rates are the “new normal.” Enough is enough!
PG&E’s safety record has been questioned since 2010 when the San Bruno pipeline explosion killed 8 people and injured 58 others. A federal grand jury found the utility guilty of committing felony crimes before and after the San Bruno disaster, including obstruction of justice. Since then PG&E has sparked several fires and wiped out thousands of houses, causing dozens of deaths and tens of billions of dollars in damages.
PG&E was also criminally convicted for their role in California’s deadliest and most destructive fire, the Camp Fire, which destroyed the town of Paradise and other surrounding communities. PG&E plead guilty to 85 felony counts – 84 for involuntary manslaughter and 1 for unlawfully starting a fire. PG&E was again indicted by the Sonoma County District Attorney for their role in the devastating 2019 Kincade fire. The Shasta County District Attorney has also said she will pursue criminal charges against the company for the fatal Zogg Fire, which killed 4 people and leveled more than 200 buildings outside of Redding last year. It will make the third time in less than three years that wildfire has triggered criminal charges against PG&E.
During the devastation, PG&E rates have been escalating nearly 10 times faster than rates nationally and are soon expected to exceed 3 times the national average. Customers are repeatedly being asked to pay more for PG&E’s continued missteps and failures to properly maintain their system over the years. During this same period, shareholders were paid tens of billions of dollar in profits and dividends that should have been, at least in part, spent properly maintaining their system and ensuring customer safety. Now PG&E is pushing hard to raise rates even higher to offset the damage they have caused.
PG&E is currently seeking a retroactive 20% -plus rate increase. They recently filed for another 40% -plus rate increase starting in 2023. And, just days after allegedly igniting the Dixie Fire, PG&E announced plans to underground 10,000 miles of transmission lines. According, to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) that effort could easily cost ratepayers $30 billion or more, and will likely generate billions of dollars in additional profits for shareholders.
Customers should not be on the hook to pay for PG&E’s repeated mistakes. These massive rate increases are not sustainable and are harming businesses and residential customers alike. Electricity rates are highly regressive and higher costs exacerbate poverty, harming those who can least afford it. Rising electricity rates also harm farmers who are already struggling to cope with ongoing drought conditions and businesses seeking to recover from COVID impacts. Rapidly rising rates will also make the state’s transition to clean transportation far more expensive and difficult.
Click below for more on PG&E’s history of destruction and financial irresponsibility.