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PG&E Accused of “Stealing From the Poor to Give to the Rich” with Latest Rate Increases

In two weeks, most PG&E customers in Dublin and the rest of California can expect to see a 10% increase in their gas and electricity bills. PG&E uses a complex electrical rate plan with four tiers of billing. The plan charges progressively higher rates for each tier. Effective June 20th, PG&E will reduce rates for high-usage Tier 4 customers by 17.6%. For the typical customers in Dublin, CA, the more electricity you use, the higher the rate you pay. A recent ruling by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) seeks to narrow the gap between the low-usage and high-usage customers. To offset the reduction for the high-usage users, according to ABC Channel 7, PG&E will be raising rates on most customers by roughly 10%.

Following the upcoming rate hike for most customers, PG&E will also be increasing rates by about 30% for their low-income users enrolled in the California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) program. PG&E will implement the rate increase on their low-income customers by creating a third Tier in the CARE program. “These changes will continue to encourage energy conservation with rates that increase the more a customer uses. They will also put our average CARE rate at around the same level it was in 1991 after two decades of virtually no increases,” said Tom Bottorff, PG&E’s senior vice president of regulatory relations. According to PG&E’s website, rate increases for residents enrolled in the CARE program will not go into effect until November 1st. This increase is expected to upset many ratepayer and senior advocates.

“Many people at this point are choosing between paying for food, or paying for medicine. Any increase, even just a little bit, could be very harmful,” said Laurence Steinberg of the Berkeley Center for Independent Living. According to Katie Worth of the SF Examiner, many ratepayers and customer advocates have characterized the approved rate changes as effectively stealing from the poor to give to the rich. “We are supposed to be encouraging people to use less energy. We are supposed to be encouraging people to cut carbon emissions. You don’t do that by raising their rates for using less. You do that by rewarding them for using less,” said TURN Executive Director Mark Toney.

For customers who think they will have difficulty paying their bills, PG&E offers information on payment plans on its website. Information is also available on the Family Electric Rate Assistance plan.

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