California

Your PG&E bill is about to go up. Here’s why and how much California customers will pay

PG&E Corp. bills are going up next month, mainly to cover the utility’s costs from major wildfires and storms in recent years.

However, PG&E said Thursday the rate hike won’t pay for any of the billions of dollars in liabilities generated by the disastrous wildfires of 2017 and 2018. Those liabilities drove PG&E into bankruptcy in January.

PG&E spokesman Paul Doherty said electric customers’ bills will climb an average $3.07 a month. Natural gas bills will rise $1.73. The California Public Utilities Commission approved the higher electric charges in May and the gas bills last week, but both increases will take effect Oct. 1.

On average, residential customers currently pay $118.03 for electricity and $54.91 for gas.

The higher electric bills will pay for equipment damage and other costs stemming from selected “catastrophic events” in 2016 and 2017, including several wildfires, Doherty said.

The gas rate hike will pay for “critical safety investments” across the utility’s pipeline and storage facilities, he said. PG&E was convicted of criminal felony charges in connection with the San Bruno gas explosion that killed eight people in 2010. The company remains on probation in that case.

PG&E has other rate increase requests pending with the state Public Utilities Commission, including a case that would hike rates an average of $10.57 a month in 2020. The company says more than half of the money would be spent on reducing wildfire risks.

Earlier this month, PG&E offered $16.9 billion to pay wildfire liabilities, plus another $1 billion to reimburse local governments, as it tries to settle claims from the 2017 wine country fires and last November’s Camp Fire. Then it threw another $1 billion into the pot after making a tentative settlement with insurance companies that have paid claims to their policyholders.

However, in a major sticking point, the company still hasn’t settled claims by thousands of property owners whose damages weren’t covered by insurance. Until those claims are resolved, PG&E will linger in bankruptcy.

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Dale Kasler covers climate change, the environment, economics and the convoluted world of California water. He also covers major enterprise stories for McClatchy’s Western newspapers. He joined The Bee in 1996 from the Des Moines Register and graduated from Northwestern University.
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