Herrera Files Testimony With State Utilities Commission Blasting PG&E Bankruptcy Plan for ‘Profound & Negative Impact’

Consumers, businesses and regional economy would be hit hard by proposed rate plan, economist and utility expert argues

City Attorney Dennis Herrera today filed testimony from a nationally recognized expert on utility industry practices with the California Public Utilities Commission blasting the Pacific Gas & Electric Company’s bankruptcy plan for its “profound and negative impact” on residents, businesses and the long-term health of Northern California’s economy. The testimony by Dr. Barbara R. Barkovich, a San Rafael, Calif.-based economist, notes that PG&E’s rates are already well above the national average.

“Rates have gone up on average 40-50 percent since the year 2000,” Barkovich argued in direct testimony submitted to state regulators this afternoon. “For some industrial customers, rates have gone up well over 100 percent. These rate increases have come at the same time as a substantial recession in PG&E’s service territory, and have no doubt contributed to it.”

“This is the wrong plan at the wrong time, and Dr. Barkovich makes a compelling case as to why,” Herrera said in submitting the testimony today. “We urge state regulators to take a bold approach toward crafting a bankruptcy plan that’s more fair to consumers and less devastating to our state’s economy.”

The current PG&E bankruptcy plan, which was negotiated between the utility and state PUC staff, is slated for review by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in San Francisco as well as the full commission. As part of the state PUC’s review, interested parties have been invited to submit testimony today on the plan. Rebuttal testimony is expected to be submitted by all parties, including PG&E and its advocates on Sept. 8. Evidentiary hearings will be held on Sept. 10-12, and then again on Sept. 22-23.

Together with the Counties of Alameda, Fresno, San Luis Obispo and Sonoma, San Francisco is a creditor and active participant in the PG&E bankruptcy case. The City filed suit in February 2000 against PG&E’s parent company, PG&E Corporation, for numerous violations of law, including provisions enforced by the state PUC that govern the conduct of holding companies. That lawsuit, which remains ongoing, seeks to recover some $4.6 billion on behalf of San Francisco and other PG&E ratepayers. PG&E’s statements in the bankruptcy court suggest that it will try and use the proposed bankruptcy settlement to terminate that lawsuit and a similar one filed by the Attorney General.