22 June 2012

Another American Utility Scam!

As part of the case against Pacific Gas and Electric’s fines levied after their deadly explosion, CA state Assemblyman Jerry Hill (D) has introduced legislation to save rate payers the money PG&E will use to upgrade its pipeline system. Or as Hill says, “These funds are not going to be budgeted this year, regardless, and it could be years down the road before those fines are imposed. This gets more to the issue of equity and fairness.” Great idea Jerry…except for one thing. Your plan to “save” innocent rate payers up to 95 percent of PG&E’s plan for the first phase of work – and up to $9 billion for Phase 2 – is genius – for PG&E and it’s stockholders. Instead, Hill’s legislation – co-sponsored by CA Sen. Mark Leno (D), who also represents overwhelmingly wealthy districts in the Bay Area – effectively transfers those costs from the poor, over-regulated back of PG&E and its stockholders directly to rate payers. BTW, let’s also excuse the rate payer-funded millions granted to PG&E to fix those pipeline problems BEFORE the tragedy murders occurred too. Money they used instead to pay executive compensation and dividends during some less than profitable years. And oh yeah, let’s ice the case by allowing PG&E stockholders an 11.1 percent dividend for all their fine – and by fine, I mean fine sarcastically – work on paying fines intended to be punitive. Initial fines, BTW, a court laughably low and sent back for renegotiation. The stunning ineptitude of years of PG&E cock ups was partially caused by the equally stunning failure of CA’s Public Utilities Commission to regulate. The PUC levied years of slap-on-the wrist fines which PG&E simply wrote off as the costs of doing business. Newsflash here Mark and Jerry, the rate payers already paid for the upgrades and you saved us zilch. This case is exactly what makes claims of corporate over-regulation a farce. It also highlights the fact that corporations routinely pretend to be good corporate citizens – while whining about rate payer-funded, artificially low fines actually paid by someone else – levied only when their reprehensible conduct is too big to ignore. If by “too big to ignore” we mean blowing up entire neighborhoods. You guys, I can do without “help” like this.

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