PG&E seeks to raise rates

  • File - In this Sept. 11, 2010 file photo, a natural gas line lies broken on a San Bruno, Calif., after a massive explosion. More than 200 of PG&E’s gas pipelines are in danger of a failure similar to the 2010 explosion in San Bruno that killed eight people, according to review by the utility. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

SAN FRANCISCO — Pacific Gas & Electric Co. on Monday proposed raising utility customer's bills by as much as $12 per month to upgrade its gas and electricity systems, as more questions surfaced about the company's oversight of its gas lines in the wake of the deadly San Bruno explosion.

The company sent its proposal to raise rates by more than $2 billion over three years to California regulators, saying the extra funds were necessary to accomplish a major overhaul of its gas distribution and electrical systems. Much of the money would go to replace older gas lines, install leak detection systems, connect new residential and business customers, replace cables and make other upgrades, the utility said.

Segments of its gas transmission line running through Sonoma County need to be examined further to assess their risk of failure, PG&E said Monday.

"We have areas ... where we need to take that next step of further analysis to validate the safety of that line," said utility spokeswoman Brittany McKannay.

The segments are on Line 21E, which starts in Santa Rosa and runs up into Humboldt County, she said.

McKannay was unable Monday to identify which segments require further study.

There are about 10 high-pressure gas lines in Sonoma County, their ages dating from the 1920s to 2010, PG&E President Chris Johns told The Press Democrat last year.

At the time, he said that six pipelines in Sonoma County — five in Petaluma and one in Santa Rosa — would be undergoing extensive testing this year.

The utility has come under fire for poor management of its aging network of gas pipelines since the 2010 San Bruno explosion that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes in the San Francisco suburb.

The company's proposal is just the first step in the process used to set natural gas and electricity rates for utility customers, and it will need to be approved by the California Public Utilities Commission. PG&E seeks $1.25 billion in 2014, $500 million in 2015 and $500 million in 2016.

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