California

Legislature won’t have power over PG&E when it comes to raising rates on customers

‘Overwhelming.’ See Camp Fire crews sift through debris looking for human remains

Search and rescue workers sifted through debris looking for human remains on Nov. 15, 2018. Investigators will use dental records among other things to identify victims of the Camp Fire in Butte County.
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Search and rescue workers sifted through debris looking for human remains on Nov. 15, 2018. Investigators will use dental records among other things to identify victims of the Camp Fire in Butte County.

A proposal that would have given California lawmakers authority over PG&E rate hikes was effectively killed on Thursday, after a key budget committee decided to hold the bill.

State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, introduced Senate Bill 549 to protect ratepayers and prevent them from being put on the hook for wildfire damage the company caused.

“I’m disappointed that the Legislature won’t be able to exercise its constitutional oversight as provided by my bill,” Hill said in a statement.

Lynsey Paulo, a spokeswoman for PG&E, said the company did not take a position on the bill and has nothing to add about lawmakers’ decision not to go forward with it.

Under Hill’s plan, the California Public Utilities Commission — the agency tasked with regulating privately owned public utilities — would have still had the final say in approving the increases, but the commission could not approve a rate hike unless the Legislature agreed to it.

With the bill’s failure, the power to approve rate increases remains solely with the utilities commission.

PG&E caused the Camp Fire, which destroyed the town of Paradise and killed 85 people, leaving the company with billions of dollars in potential liability. Earlier this year, PG&E filed for bankruptcy.

While Senate Bill 549 will not move forward this session, Hill said he’ll work with his colleagues to come up with other ideas on how to protect PG&E customers from substantial rate hikes.

“The Senate has already taken a proactive stance, and through the Select Committee, is considering next steps to engage on these issues,” Hill said.

Bryan Anderson is a political reporter for The Bee. He covers the California Legislature and reports on wildfires and transportation. He also hosts The Bee’s “California Nation” podcast.

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