PG&E rate hike proposal gets icy reception in Fresno

In the middle of bankruptcy proceedings and seeking to guard against exorbitant payouts for wildfires caused by its equipment, Pacific Gas and Electric is pushing a plan to raise residential utility rates by, on average, $10.50 per month.

Now, California regulators are hearing from the public before weighing in to either approve or deny the rate increase.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) held two sets of public hearings on Wednesday afternoon and evening to gather comment on the proposal at Fresno’s City Hall.

While lightly attended, residents and local activist groups implored the CPUC to reject the rate hike proposal, citing the already high cost of living in an impoverished portion of the Golden State.

“We just live day by day,” said Marie Ramirez said during comment, as reported by Nexstar. “They are making a choice either to eat or have lights.”

Fresno Mayor Lee Brand even weighed in during the hearing, asking for regulators to reject the plan.

“Fresno is dealing with the highest concentration of poverty in the state and the second highest concentration of extreme poverty in the United States,” Brand said during his comments. “And any level of increase would be hard for our residents to handle.”

PG&E has faced some pressure from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to begin preparing for an exit to bankruptcy. Monday, the company announced it will file its reorganization plan with the court by Sept. 9.

By its own timetable, PG&E would emerge from bankruptcy in May 2020.

Current PG&E management is facing a competing bid for control of the company in bankruptcy proceedings from a group of corporate bondholders, led by investment firms PIMCO and Elliott Management.

Staff reports from The San Joaquin Valley Sun staff.