SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — On the same day Cal Fire announced PG&E equipment is to blame for starting the deadly Camp Fire, the new PG&E CEO was at the Capitol, testifying before an assembly committee.
With the utility facing mounting legal and safety problems, PG&E’s money trouble was on lawmakers’ minds Wednesday.
“And where will the money come from,” Assemblymember Eloise Reyes (D-San Bernardino) said.
PG&E CEO Bill Williams was initially stumped and struggled for an answer. Then he misspoke.
“I think initially, it’s coming out of the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) coffers and I don’t know what the rules of recovery are,” Williams said.
“The TVA coffers,” Reyes said.
“It’s not coming out of the TVA coffers, the PG&E coffers, I may have said TVA,” Williams said.
Williams has only been at the head of the bankrupt utility for two weeks and had led the Tennessee Valley Authority before that. Committee Chair, Assemblymember Chris Holden, offered his own answer on where the money would come from.
“I think it’s safe to say that where the money’s coming from is where it always comes from, and it will probably fall on the ratepayers, more than likely,” Holden said.
State Senator Jim Nielsen’s district includes the entire Camp Fire burn zone.
“Let’s just say that I’m no fan of PG&E,” Nielsen said. “We do not want to have too much burden and responsibility pushed off on ratepayers.”
PG&E just had a $3.50/month rate increase approved in April. The utility is asking for another $22/month increase next, to cover wildfire safety.
AARP is among the ratepayer advocates fighting the increases.
“Our biggest fear is that we’re going to have double, triple, and even quadruple rates,” AARP’s Blanca Castro said.
PG&E is already facing $30 billion dollars in possible claims from wildfire lawsuits. If criminal charges are filed against the utility they could face more penalties.