Bob Higgins

PG&E Uses Rate Increases for Bonuses While Suburbs Burn

Posted in Environment, News, Politics by Bob Higgins on September 16, 2010
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Photo: Brant Ward / San Francisco Chronicle - A home burned as the sun set on a San Bruno neighborhood. A blast believed to be caused by a natural gas explosion ravaged a San Bruno neighborhood.

PG&E, the merry folks who recently blew up a quiet residential neighborhood in San Bruno, California have, for years, like public utilities everywhere, requested money from state regulators for repairs and maintenance on infrastructure in the form of rate increases.

We’re not talking small change here, regulators have agreed to provide hundreds of millions in funds through rate increases for tree trimming, inspection, replacement and repair of pipelines and a myriad of other necessary tasks in the interest of public safety.

So what’s the problem? They take the money and don’t perform the work. The state’s PUC regulators approve the funds, the customers pay the rate increases but PG&E has been using the funds for other purposes like, well, executive bonuses, for one.

As David R. Baker reports this morning in the San Francisco Chronicle :

Three years ago, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. asked state regulators for $4.9 million to replace a portion of the same natural gas pipeline that ruptured last week and set a San Bruno neighborhood on fire.

State regulators agreed, and the work was scheduled to be done in 2009. The price became part of the rates all PG&E customers pay.

And that is where the system stops working, all the members of the public/private team act responsibly until it’s time for the private body, the corporation, PG&E in this case, to perform their agreed upon function, to pony up, to fulfill their part of the bargain.

At that point, with the great wad of public money in hand, they notice that the old Pings are a bit scuffy looking or the ashtrays in the Mercedes are full and the public money is seen as private profit, an opportunity to give bonuses to the boys or dividends to shareholders or whatever goes through the minds of these creeps as people are igniting in their LazyBoys.

The fact that criminal indictments are not being prepared at this very moment for the sociopaths that occupy PG&E executive suites is cause for public outrage.

Our regulatory system has been so broken by the corporate corruption of our public affairs that our lives are in danger from every quarter. Our food, travel, health care, energy usage, even sitting quietly in our homes can kill or injure us due to corporate criminality or negligence and the inability of our failed system to prevent it.

It’s not just PG&E, this is not an isolated incident, the results of this profit frenzy, this corporate lust to squeeze every dollar out of every transaction shows up in the headlines, in our hospital emergency rooms and obituary pages daily.

We allow this to continue unabated, and to reward these criminals with more control of our public affairs. They will now control nearly our entire electoral process thanks to the SCOTUS decision in Citizens United vs FEC. It is likely that large uncontrollable corporate spending will decide many of the winners in the upcoming election and more to come.

As our air becomes unbreathable, our water undrinkable, our oceans fouled with crude oil and toxic chemicals, our mountain tops disappear, will the threat of fire in our recliners finally drive us to take action against the corporate takeover of our world?

Citizens! Check your chairs.

Bob Higgins

Pipeline fix was planned – but never happened
California Public Utilities Commission

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