Delayed PG&E Bill Costing Ratepayers Millions of Dollars

By Published On: March 13, 2004

SB 772, the bill that would set in motion refinancing of $2.21 billion of Pacific Gas & Electric?s $8 billion in bankruptcy costs, is still hung up between committees at the Legislature?at the expense of PG&E customers. The bill would allow state regulators to authorize a bond issue backed by utility ratepayers to pay off the mammoth tab, a plan expected to save PG&E clients as much as $1 billion. But for every day that passes without enactment, those savings sink by about $300,000, according to Capitol estimates (see <i>Circuit</i>, Feb. 13, 2004). The clock began running on January 1, which means PG&E ratepayers have missed out on $21.6 million in savings as of March 12. Calculated from February 2, the day that the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee approved SB 772 and sent it to the Appropriations Committee, the figure is $11.7 million. Sources in the Legislature say that bill author Senator Debra Bowen (D-Redondo Beach) is still lining up support among various members of the Assembly. The measure?s chief players, PG&E and municipal utilities, remain strongly opposed on the issue of which customers should be required to pay a nonbypassable charge to cover the financing plan?s dedicated rate component. Sources indicate that middle ground will not be reached and that lawmakers, rather than compromise language in the bill, must strike the balance.

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