PG&E rate hikes approved amid pandemic, will pay for fire safety measures

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California regulators this week approved an 8% rate hike for Pacific Gas and Electric residential customers, but some say it’s the wrong time for an increase due to the financial toll of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The higher rates will pay for grid improvements, tree trimming near power lines and other measures meant to reduce the risk of fires sparked by equipment.

For household customers, the increase comes out to a little more than $13 a month, and will take place March 1, 2021.

However, some say the hikes are taking place at the wrong time.

“Those that are in the bottom half of incomes in our area are being badly hurt by the pandemic and the recession that followed, so they can ill afford this,” said Roy Miller, an attorney representing wildfire victims. “Unfortunately, the CPUC gave the green light for the rate hike to be implemented anyway.”

Miller said the rate hikes are a byproduct of the utility not taking quicker action to modernize.

“So, they’re having to play catch up for decades of underinvestment in their grid, and this is the result of that," he told KCBS Radio.

According to Miller, PG&E had initially asked for about $2 billion in additional revenue from rate increases. Instead, the final settlement approved by the California Public Utilities Commission calls for $1.1 billion between 2020 and 2022.