The future is going to be “easier” and “brighter” for PG&E.
So says the Patricia Poppe who is CEO of PG&E, the firm that has copped to the felony manslaughter deaths of 85 of its customers. A number of dead people, by the way, 12 times more proficient than the most prolific killer on death row at San Quentin.
Of course, Poppe wasn’t addressing PG&E’s captive customer base the executive suite at 555 Beale Street in San Francisco milks like cash cows and kills them off and either burns down or blows up their homes as collateral damage for doing business the PG&E way.
She was talking to the most important people to PG&E — aside from those executives with massive compensation packages — the shareholders.
The shareholders have reasons to rejoice. PG&E for the second time in 20 years has come out of bankruptcy caused by reckless and or gross mismanagement and is expected to turn record profits by 2025.
Not bad for a company that is a twice convicted felon.
And that huge profit will be fueled ironically by the “fix” to years of PG&E ignoring transmission line maintenance and replacement that created 70,000 victims who lost their lives or their homes during the 2018 Paradise inferno brought to you by the infamous “PG&E way.”
Governor Gavin Newsom passed up on a rare opportunity to put an end to a killer company a year ago when he didn’t pull the plug on PG&E’s very existence and force it to be broken into public entities or sold. Blame it on the pandemic that had become a pressing issue. Or you could blame it on the cozy relationship those sly foxes have with those who guard the public’s trust — the proverbial hen house if you will — through campaign contributions. If not that then through the old wine and dine schmoozing such as arranging to help California lawmakers see the light at gatherings in places like Hawaii.
PG&E is seeking yet another rate hike. This time it is a another $3.6 billion to do more wildfire safety work which was supposed to have been done all along but didn’t become an issue until PG&E almost wiped Paradise off the face of the earth. Paradise, before “the PG&E way” did a number on them, had 26,500 residents.
That rate increase would hike the average residential bill for natural gas and electricity $36 a month or more than $1 a day. To put that in perspective, $442 of the $600 tax rebate check going to California households the state budget includes for over collecting taxes will make its way to PG&E. And in the years ahead if the rate increase, should it be granted, the $442 will come from many of its 16 million captive customers cutting back on household spending.
It’s bad enough PG&E over the years diverted money from upkeep and such to sweeten the value of PG&E stock, pay six-figure executive bonuses, and buy an executive jet. But the fact the proposed rate increase — just like all PG&E rate increases — comes with a built-in guarantee courtesy of Sacramento that the utility will have at least and 11.5 percent return, or profit.
That means PG&E will add roughly $380 million in profits from the rate increase.
And if half of the rate increase goes to “harden” the system against wildfires, PG&E will net $190 million for doing things they were supposed to be doing all along on top of the what they diverted to profits from such work in the past.
That means PG&E is a criminal genius. Those convicted of run-of-the-mill felony manslaughter charges don’t profit from the crime they committed. If the rate increase is granted with the “guaranteed return” intact PG&E will actually profit from the death of 85 people.
This, of course, should surprise no one who has followed the carnage the “PG&E way” has left across a wide swath of the California landscape from Hinkley and San Bruno to Sonoma County and Paradise.
One would hope someone in the California Legislature would at least introduce axing the guaranteed return for PG&E on parts of rate hikes directly related to addressing wildfire prevention maintenance.
As it stands now PG&E — as a convicted felon — is being rewarded for its reckless behavior that contributed to the death of 85 people, destroyed more than 17,000 homes, and left 70,000 people homeless.
It is arguably the most egregious example in California history of victims being victimized twice with the complicity of Sacramento.
It gets worse. Sacramento — not only due to their lack of political courage failed to disassemble a rogue corporation when they had the chance — but they are now working on making PG&E a virtual energy monopoly by increasing their vice grip hold on the pocketbooks of 16 million Californians with the mandate to end the sale within the state of new vehicles powered by carbon based fuels starting in 2035.
That gives PG&E a one-two punch to ravage customers. First their equipment can start wildfires and then by that power being knocked out they could severely reduce the ability of people to flee their handiwork.
It’s kind of like convicting Bonnie and Clyde of bank robberies as well as taking lives and then the state handing down a sentence that not only lets them continue robbing banks but makes it possible for them to increase the body count.
Newsom passed on the chance to free 16 million Californians from the clutches of PG&E and then essentially doubled down on the potential for their chokehold on people by giving them carte blanche to dominate electric vehicle charging.
At the same time the California Public Utilities Commission granted PG&E a rate hike so they could invest in electric charging stations on the back of ratepayers. The move meant ratepayers, and not PG&E stockholders, are footing the bill to put in place more infrastructure to fatten PG&E’s profitability.
So when Poppe says the future is brighter for stockholders she isn’t kidding.
The CEO, who is being paid $1.35 million a year with $9.25 million in long-term incentives as well as an upfront package of stock and cash worth $40 million, probably gets to partake in a 15 percent PG&E employee power discount as well.
Keep that in mind as you fork over what could be an addition $442 annually to PG&E based on average residential power use.
As for doing better by way of customers consider the following chilly tidbit.
Should PG&E be convicted of charges as well in the 2018 Sonoma County wildfire that caused more than $500 million in property charges, PG&E will be spot on when the say they are getting better. That’s because the Paradise fire they have already been convicted of that killed 85 people and caused $16.5 billion in property losses happened in 2019.
The word “better” for ratepayers in lingo under the PG&E way of doing business apparently means more death and destruction.
That is why the seven most frightening words a Northern Californian can hear these days are, “PG&E at your service.”
This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at [email protected]