Wednesday, August 27, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

PG&E gas rate request shows chutzpah

elias column sig

By
From page A8 | March 22, 2014 |

At the very moment that California’s largest utility company was being assessed a $14 million fine for failing to report discovery of flawed records on its gas pipelines in the San Francisco Peninsula town of San Carlos, the same company was asking for well in excess of $1 billion in rate increases to pay for repairs to that very same pipeline system.

That alone would demonstrate remarkable chutzpah, the Yiddish word for sheer audacity and gall in overstepping the bounds of accepted behavior. But at the same time late last year, the company, Pacific Gas & Electric Co., was also asking the state Public Utilities Commission for a 12 percent increase in its ordinary rates.

If PG&E gets away with much of what it now seeks, you can bet on similar breaks for the other big California gas utilities, Southern California Gas Co. and San Diego Gas & Electric, both owned by Sempra Energy, which has annual revenues of more than $10 billion.

It’s certainly not the first time PG&E, the San Francisco-based outfit whose pipeline exploded in 2010, killing eight people and destroying 38 homes in San Bruno, has shown chutzpah, sometimes interpreted as insolence. “Negligent” was the word employed by the National Transportation Safety Board to describe PG&E’s conduct (along with a finding of lax enforcement by the PUC).

This, after all, is the same company that got away with using obscure rules to declare bankruptcy while sitting on plenty of resources during the energy crunch of 2000-01, a move that allowed it to restructure itself for greater future profit.

But bankruptcy did not have a direct adverse effect on the consumers – residential and commercial – who finance PG&E. The requested new rates would.

Much of the repair and maintenance work PG&E (like the other gas companies) wants customers to pay for now should have been done years ago with billions of dollars in maintenance money consumers have paid via their monthly bills since the 1950s. It’s still unclear just what PG&E and the others did with the cash earmarked for maintenance, but plainly, not all was spent on that.

All of which means PG&E has not deviated from its long-stated goal of having its customers put up new funds for it to bring its system up to the level of safety it should have had all along.

The $14 million fine utility commissioners assessed against PG&E for its San Carlos misbehavior may signal some change in the attitude of the PUC, which has long given its obligation to keep the utilities financially sound a higher priority than its other big mission, keeping prices in line for customers.

“This penalty is to serve as a deterrent against similar future behavior,” said Commissioner Mark Ferron.

But only time and the PUC’s final decisions on both PG&E rate increase requests will determine whether the commission’s kabuki dance of the past six decades will continue. This dance has long seen utility companies make large rate increase requests only to see the commission cut them down.

Of course, no one but company executives ever has known how much they really needed to remain solvent – all we know is that no California utility has ever gone under, despite PG&E’s highly questionable 2000s-era venture into bankruptcy, a trip to financial purgatory that somehow did not cause even one of the firm’s top executives to lose his job.

What we do know is that consumers who paid billions in maintenance money over many, many years would have every reason for righteous indignation if asked to pay for upgrading the pipeline systems of any of the utilities.

The same, of course, would be true if Southern California Edison and SDG&E customers who have paid for years into a fund for use in the eventual decommissioning of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, were forced to pay extra because now it really is closed.

In both cases, the blunders leading to the problems were done by the companies, not their customers, which means they and their stockholders, not the customers, should be paying the price of failure, whatever it might be.

Thomas Elias is a California author. Reach him at tdelias@aol.com.

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 2 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • BobMarch 22, 2014 - 7:54 am

    PG&E are those monsters your mother read to you about when she put you to bed, you know, the ones that suck all the life and energy from everyone that opens the closet door at night and looks inside The guys who run PG&E should be embarrassed but are too rich to GAF

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rich GiddensMarch 22, 2014 - 10:27 am

    PG&E should shut down and send this horrible state up a sewer soon creek without a paddle---teach your state a terrible lesson it won't forget! You California dummies should have started tracking and drilling the Monterey shale reserve long ago!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

Ryde Hotel: A speakeasy from the past

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Walnut Grove shows a bit of historic Japan

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Walnut Grove: Fun facts, things to see

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1

 
Solano County supervisors get raise

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A2

Solano supervisors declare quake state of emergency

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A3

 
Solano helps after Napa quake

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Weather for Aug. 27, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: B3

 
 
Solano promotes hand washing

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
Solano College to host college transfer fair

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A6

 
Golf tournament to benefit college sport’s teams

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A6

Man steals car from Fairfield resident

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A6, 4 Comments

 
Learn about local travel opportunities

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A6

 
Pierce Brosnan thriller kicks off week’s new films

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A7

 
Vacaville OK’s 20-percent reduction in water use

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A8

 
Museum guild schedules trip to historic San Francisco home

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A8

 
3 die in I-680 crash; 2 from Vacaville

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A9

 
Suisun City police log: Aug. 25, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A12

 
Fairfield police log: Aug. 24, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A12

Fairfield police log: Aug. 23, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: Aug. 24, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: Aug. 23, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A12

 
Fairfield police log: Aug. 25, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

.

US / World

UN panel: Global warming human-caused, dangerous

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Obama defends handling of veterans affairs issues

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Arab strikes in Libya show impatience with US

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
AP sources: US surveillance planes fly over Syria

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Napa quake stirs clamor for warning system

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
American woman held hostage in Syria

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Putin and Poroshenko meet for bilateral talks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Group files petition to idle coastal nuke plant

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Israel, Hamas agree to open-ended Gaza cease-fire

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Los Angeles schools halt iPad deal amid criticism

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Report finds 1,400 children exploited in UK town

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Police: Slain woman ID’d ex-deputy as her attacker

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Officials: Instructor accidentally killed by girl

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Judges blast Indiana, Wisconsin gay marriage bans

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

.

Opinion

How to reduce taxes without busting the budget

By Ramesh Ponnuru | From Page: A11

 
Abandoned carts are everyone’s responsibility

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 1 Comment

Editorial cartoons for Aug. 27, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

 
Question of the week: Is US policy on hostages correct?

By Daily Republic | From Page: A11

Obama risks alienating Latinos from Dems

By Thomas Elias | From Page: A11

 
.

Living

Today in History: Aug. 27, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Aug. 27, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

We were good parents. Why won’t our adult children help us out?

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B6

 
Horoscopes: Aug. 27, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B6

Banishing the blues with healthy blueberry muffins

By Sara Moulton | From Page: B7

 
Choosing chutney

By Mcclatchy-Tribune News Service | From Page: B7

.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
Women talk about sports on CBS Sports Network

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Miley Cyrus’ date wanted by Oregon police

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
NBC’s Emmycast logs robust 15.6 million viewership

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

.

Sports

US teen Bellis, 15, stuns Cibulkova at US Open

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Raiders CB DJ Hayden to start season on PUP list

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

49ers prepare for possible Aldon Smith suspension

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Prep football preview: Indians positive heading into 2014 season

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Serena Williams beats American teen at US Open

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Carter’s HR in 8th leads Astros over A’s 4-2

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Love struck: Kevin Love pledges commitment to Cavs

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Sarkisian: USC looking into Shaw’s heroic story

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Davis, US men beat Slovenia in basketball exhibition

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Latest Astrodome proposal: massive indoor park

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Bumgarner flirts with perfection, finishes with 1-hitter in Giants win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
No reason to feel sorry for Jim Furyk

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

TMS 2015 schedule springs back to night race

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
.

Business

UN health agency urges crackdown on e-cigarettes

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Survey: US consumer confidence near a 7-year high

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Burger King buys, plans expansion of Tim Hortons

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
.

Obituaries

Frank W. Moy Jr.

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Lyle Cullum

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

Gary Allen Person

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Florentino”Paul” Castaneda Bersola

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

Nadine L Wetherell

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6