With potential Pacific Gas and Electric rate increases on the horizon in the upcoming months, a trio of San Joaquin Valley leaders broke their silence and spoke out against them to the California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday.
PG&E’s rates increased by nearly eight percent at the start of the year, and the beginning of March brought an additional nine percent increase.
Before those rate hikes took effect, the utility submitted a rate application to the CPUC requesting that rates increase from 2023-2026 .
The average residential customer would see an 18 percent increase in 2023 if approved by the commission.
In his testimony to the commission, Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer said he has “extreme concern” with the proposed rate increase.
“Fresno is an extremely economically depressed area. It has one of the highest poverty rates in the nation. In fact, Fresno is listed as having the No. 2 poverty rate in the state of California. Fresno County is most often known as the bread basket of the world, putting food on the tables of people across America, yet people who live in Fresno oftentimes are not able to put food on their own tables,” Dyer said.
“Those who live in Fresno are having to make very difficult decisions every day as to whether to put food on their table, buy clothes for their children, or pay their PG&E bill. With gas prices skyrocketing and inflation rates soaring, it has simply become too much.”
Following Dyer’s testimony, Madera Mayor Santos Garcia said his city has an energy capacity crisis with the lack of energy stalling development.
Garcia said Madera is losing out on jobs and business and is causing public safety concerns because PG&E is not able to fully provide energy for the city.
“This is having a direct impact on the city’s ability to recruit, train, equip and retrain police officers and firefighters,”Garcia said.
The Madera mayor said that if PG&E wants the city’s support for the rate increases, the utility needs to address its needs first.
“We request that we get the energy resources necessary to develop and grow our community,” Garcia said.
Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh joined her colleagues to the north in opposition to the rate hikes.
“Families would be impacted by a 50.3 percent increase from 2021-2026. A 50.3 increase for our families is unreasonable, severe and unsustainable. The pandemic and economic factors have burdened hard working families with large increases in gas and food prices,” Goh said.
“People from northern and southern California have moved to Bakersfield seeking greater affordability. Housing prices have skyrocketed. Bakersfield families cannot subsist with a proposed PG&E increase. Our most vulnerable and struggling residents pay more on average for electricity and share a disproportionate share of the burden.”
Shortly after the proposal was announced by PG&E, Dyer led an effort to rally Valley communities to oppose the rate increase proposal, beginning with the City of Fresno.
A number of municipalities across the Valley floor began considering authorizing position statements opposing the rate hikes before backing off taking such a staunch public position.
The CPUC is scheduled to hold another public hearing on March 22 to receive input about the proposed rate increases.