-By Warner Todd Huston
Since the several disastrous accidents that claimed the lives of too many Californians, Pacific Gas & Electric has been fighting criticism over its dismal safety record. In response, the energy provider cried poor and said it needed billions for upgrades and repairs and wanted ratepayers to pay even more for its services. But a new report says that PG&E collected millions from ratepayers for repairs and improvements that it never actually made.
Early last year PG&E got a large rate increase, but by August the energy provider was at it again asking for an additional $2.2 billion for upgrades, repairs, and improving its explosion-prone delivery system, a cost to be born on the backs of the ratepayers.
This January, though, the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) reported that PG&E has already collected half a billion dollars that was supposed to go to these repairs and upgrades yet the repairs were never made.
The report by the California Public Utility Commission’s safety division also disclosed that PG&E in recent years has collected more than a half billion dollars from ratepayers for system improvements that were never made or that exceeded the amount of money it was authorized to earn. That finding, from an audit, could make it harder for the utility to saddle its customers with 90 percent of the cost of its $2.2 billion pipeline-renovation plan, as it recently has proposed.
The report concluded that PG&E violate the law. Officials plan to hold hearings to consider the charges contained in the report and to make recommendations of where to go from here.
Whatever happens, ratepayers deserve an accounting of the unused millions and need to be assured that the high energy prices they are suffering under will actually be spent on improving public safety as they were promised it would be.