PG&E is urging state regulators to fund pipeline safety improvements by increasing customer fees.
Company officials made their case Tuesday to the California Public Utilities Commission, responding to testimony by ratepayer advocates and watchdogs who argued customers should not be on the hook for required safety upgrades.
“PG&E shareholders have already absorbed some of the financial consequences of the tragic San Bruno accident,” Susan F. Tierney, a PG&E consultant, told the regulators. “Since the accident, PG&E’s share price has significantly underperformed compared to other electric utilities.”
In a conference call with reporters, Tom Bottorff, PG&E’s senior vice president of regulatory relations, said the company should not rely on shareholders to pay for pipeline safety projects required under new regulations.
Those regulations require the utility to pressure test pipelines installed before 1970, the year when records were first required. The utility estimates that shareholders would foot a $360 million bill for work on its “Pipeline Safety Enhancement Plan.” Ratepayers would cover the other $1.84 billion, resulting in an additional $1.85 per month charge for customers. The company hopes the rate hike will be approved as early as this summer. If approved, it would run through 2014.
— Amy Crawford