Settlement means higher PG&E rates

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By Dawn Hodson McNaughton Media PG&E has reached a case settlement to reduce the risk of wildfires while raising the cost of a typical customer’s electric and gas bill by $5.69 a month, or 3.4 percent, to pay for it. Included is an average of $4.90 more for electricity and .79 cents more for gas service, according to PG&E which made the announcement Friday. The settlement won’t be final until it is reviewed by an administrative law judge and “other parties” and a final decision is issued by the California Public Utility Commission in 2020. The new rates, once approved, would be effective through 2022. The news release from the utility states the increase will go toward safety investments and not toward potential claims resulting from the 2017 and 2018 wildfires nor toward PG&E corporation or utility officer compensation. The settlement follows a disastrous year for PG&E after it had to declare bankruptcy in the wake of the Camp Fire in Butte County that broke out Nov. 8, 2018. The deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history, 85 people lost their lives and the towns of Paradise and Concow were almost completely destroyed by the fire. In March of this year PG&E admitted that a damaged C-hook on a high-voltage transmission tower on PG&E’s Caribou-Palermo transmission line is what likely sparked the fire. Since that time, the utility has taken the precaution of shutting down power to hundreds of thousands of its customers when dry, windy conditions have raised the chance of fire being sparked by more downed power lines. Several of those power shutoffs have been in El Dorado County, causing a scramble by residents, businesses and public agencies to make do without power for several days at a time with the prospect of regular power downs occurring for years to come while old PG&E equipment is replaced or repaired. As part of its Community Wildfire Safety Program, the company plans to take several steps, including installing stronger and more resilient poles and covered power lines in the highest fire-threat areas, keeping power lines clear of branches and conducting annual vegetation inspections of approximately 81,000 miles of high-voltage electric distribution lines. It will also implement SmartMeter technology to more quickly identify and respond to fallen power lines and expand its network of weather stations to enhance weather forecasting and modeling in high-risk areas. In addition, it will install nearly 600 near high-definition cameras in high fire-threat areas, increasing coverage across those areas to more than 90 percent.]]>

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