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Non-profit benefactors of PG&E embrace rate hike

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POSTED June 11, 2013 2:18 a.m.

STOCKTON – Non-profits in and around San Joaquin County are appreciative of the money that San Francisco-based PG&E has given out to them over the years.

They’re so appreciative, in fact, that more than a  dozen of them stepped up Monday night at a testimony hearing of the California Public Utilities Commission at Stockton’s City Hall to testify in favor of granting the utility a rate increase of more than $5 billion over the course of the next three years.

PG&E spokespersons have indicated it will cost just under $12 a month for each customer that has both natural gas and electricity service.

If approved by the five-member commission, the rates would go into effect on Jan. 1.

The overwhelming majority of the comments logged at the hearing on Monday night – which may or may not have been a holdover from a meeting originally scheduled for late last week – were in favor of the rate increases that PG&E Representative Dylan George said will help pay for infrastructure repairs and meeting the growing task of supplying power and natural gas to 15 million California customers.

The company – which is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange and is one of the composites that make up Standard and Poor’s 500 Index – will end up interjecting $9 billion, George said, into the state economy while providing jobs to more than 32,000 people directly and indirectly.

And the impact on non-profits – whether it was a $200,000 grant to Venture Academy at the San Joaquin County Office of Education or an in-kind donation of a 2003 Ford pickup truck to Interfaith Ministries of Stanislaus County – was at the forefront of Monday’s comments to Administrative Law Judge Thomas Pulsifer.

Absent were local groups like Second Harvest Food Bank and the Ripon Community Athletic Fund, both of which have received support from the utility, but everybody from El Concilio (The Council For The Spanish Speaking) to the Sacramento Red Cross lauded PG&E for its continued support and threw their support behind the rate hike that opponents claim will raise the rates on seniors by 33 percent.

Some, like Patti Lovato of the Worker’s Benefit Council, all but accused PG&E of stacking the deck after they showed up for the meeting last Thursday only to find nobody in attendance and arrived Monday to find non-profits – some traveling from Sacramento – stacked up to go on record in favor of the rate hike (a notice about the meeting change, Lovato said, didn’t run in the local paper).

David Cotarta called the move “PG&E hedging its bets” and he inquired after the meeting about whether those in opposition would have another forum to voice their opinion after the unexpected meeting time change.

Pulsifer instructed those who didn’t get a chance to speak to contact the CPUC’s public advisor to submit something in writing.

The commission is expected to decide the rate increase in December.

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