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Richmond City Council urges California to cut ties with PG&E amid rate hikes

The Richmond City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday night to ask California to replace PG&E, which has doubled its rates since 2019, with Golden State Energy, a nonprofit public benefit utility.

“We want the needs of the people put first: safety, reliability, affordability, health and climate issues come first for communities and not profits,” said Richmond City Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin.

PG&E issued a statement in response on Wednesday. It said that “this type of ownership framework would not benefit customers, taxpayers, local communities, the state or California‘s economy.”

The utility added it would cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars in long-term debt, increase taxpayer liability in case of wildfires and lack critical federal and state oversight.

The switch from PG&E could cost lots of time and money, according to Mark Toney, the executive director of the Utility Reform Network or TURN. He thinks it’s unlikely the Richmond City Council’s resolution will snowball statewide.

“You have to buy out the investors. You have to pay for the wires, for the poles, for the whole infrastructure. It that’s a years-long process,” Toney said.

Toney added when the Sacramento Municipal Utility District took over from PG&E, it took decades and cost billions of dollars. He thinks a faster and cheaper fix is right now in the hands of state lawmakers.

“We need to hold shareholders responsible for paying 50% of all cost overruns instead of rate payers paying 100%,” he said.

Toney told NBC Bay Area that he is calling for a law capping rate hikes and for PG&E to choose the least expensive solution to wildfires, for example, insulating wires instead of burying them.

“To put limits on PG&E’s spending ratepayer money for television commercials, for self-promotion,” he said.

In 2019, San Francisco attempted to cut ties with PG&E and offered a $2 billion buyout. The utility said no.

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