California Public Utilities Commission holds bi-monthly voting meeting at UC Davis

CAT TAYLOR / AGGIE

Members of the public raised concerns over rising PG&E costs

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) held its bi-monthly voting meeting on March 2 at UC Davis to vote on a number of proposed policies. The meeting, which included a presentation on the implementation for the area code overlay for the 916 region, also gave members of the public an opportunity to discuss recent issues concerning rising utility rates in the past year.

“We have scheduled a number of Voting Meetings around the state this year in order to get into the communities we serve,” said Michael Picker, the president of CPUC in a press release. “Holding this meeting at UC Davis is of particular interest to me because it allows us to build a direct pipeline to students and let them know about the varied and important work that the CPUC does, how they can get involved and how they can join our team when they graduate.”

The meeting, which was held in the Appellate Courtroom of King Hall, began with a half hour of public comments. People wishing to express their concerns to the commission largely spoke about the rising billing costs concerning the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), which rose in summer of 2016 and again in the winter.

Penny Manzo, a local resident who spoke during the meeting, said that the committee needs to better address the recent spikes in utility costs that have put a strain on consumers.

“You’re putting us in a bind, in this impossible bind,” Manzo said. “I want the PUC to keep us in mind, that as a regulatory agency, that’s what you need to be looking at. PG&E has a holding company. PG&E has resources. When a mistake is made, when maintenance is not kept up, when they have issues, they need to address it, but not on the back of consumers.”

Since last August, the CPUC has approved a series of rate increases. Because of the especially cold winter in California, consumers have seen sharp increases in their billing.

Earlier this month, the increased rates prompted State Senator Jerry Hill (D-13) from the San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties to call on PG&E and the CPUC to fix the utility company’s rate structure.

“The research showed that the most vulnerable are being hit the hardest at a time when they need heating the most,” said Hill in a staff report. “PG&E and the Public Utilities Commission need to prioritize customer heating needs in a way I have not yet seen.”

The CPUC, addressing Hill’s report on the rate structures for PG&E, said that they will take the proposals into consideration.

“There are many solid recommendations in Senator Hill’s report,” said the CPUC in a press release. “We will review the report closely to determine the best way to implement appropriate measures, such as adjusting the winter baseline. We thank Senator Hill for the report, as we all work toward ensuring utilities are educating and responding to their customers to help them understand their energy use and the changes in their billing, and the assistance programs that are available.”

The meeting also featured a presentation on the implementation of the area code overlay for the 916 region.

Suffering from a shortage of numbers for the 916 area code, a new number, 279, will be added to the region. The region includes parts of the Yolo, Solano, Sutter, Placer, El Dorado and Sacramento counties.  
Written by: Ivan Valenzuela — campus@theaggie.org

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