Protesters hold rally at PG&E forum Utility giant seeks rate increase in wake of Camp Fire

by Karen Laslo

Chico area residents spoke at two forums held July 18 on PG&E’s request for a rate increase, and some participated in a rally to protest the utility, which owns the electrical transmission lines that Cal Fire says caused the Camp Fire.

photo by Karen Laslo
“This meeting should be about breaking up PG&E and taking local control,” said protester Susan Sullivan.

The forums were sponsored by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to take public comment on the request for a rate increase on gas and electricity that would take effect in January 2020. Several people spoke at the second forum at 6 p.m., including Camp Fire survivors, PG&E customers, and environmental and social justice advocates. All spoke against the rate increase.

The CPUC’s Christopher Chow said the Commission will most likely make its decision by the end of this year. However, if the Commission decides to grant the increase, but doesn’t do it until later in 2020, the rate increases could be made retroactive to January of 2020.

photo by Karen Laslo
CPUC commissioners held two Thursday forums.

According to PG&E, the rate increases are needed for wildfire prevention and liability insurance. The utility says it would make the following allocations:

  • $580 million to the Community Wildfire Safety Program for fire prevention and risk reduction;
  • $273 million for increased insurance costs;
  • $205 million for gas main replacement and corrosion management.

photo by Karen Laslo
Camp Fire survivor Michael Ranney told the commissioners that he and his wife were trapped for 27 hours, that many neighbors perished and that one is still in a coma.

Protester Steve Marquardt from the Sunrise Movement said that asking PG&E customers to pay more is a “gross injustice.”

“PG&E’s criminal negligence has led to the destruction of our region and the death of at least 85 people,” Marquadt told ChicoSol. “We are specifically demanding no bail out of PG&E, public and worker control of PG&E, and a Green New Deal.”

Mary Kay Benson from Butte County said the rate increases will pay for fire liabilities “resulting from PG&E violations of state code…”. In an email prior to the rally, she noted that a recently passed bill, AB 1054, also asks PG&E customers to pay for a bond issue to protect shareholders from future liability.

photo by Karen Laslo
Members of the Sunrise Movement, 350 Butte County and the local Democratic Socialists of America attended the forum to speak and protest.

Karen Laslo is a freelance photographer and a frequent contributor to ChicoSol.

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