New Voices Are Rising Against PG&E Rate Hikes at the CPUC Public Hearing

April 2022        
by Christie Fok           

In January 2022, PG&E raised electricity rates by 8% and gas praises by 11%. In March 2022, PG&E raised rates again by 8.9% with the approval of the CPUC. With these prior rate hikes during the pandemic, many people, especially low-income folks, struggle to pay the PG&E bill and other costs of living.

Outrageously, PG&E recently proposed an additional 22% rate hike to be in effect from 2023 to 2026. If the CPUC approves this rate hike, PG&E customers will have to pay an additional $35 per month or $425 per year for electricity and gas. PG&E claims the rate hike would fund the improvement of their grossly neglected energy systems and wildfire mitigation.

Although PG&E insists the rate hike would benefit us, it does not guarantee wildfire safety or prevent planned shutdowns. Every year, PG&E shareholders and executives receive bonuses with our money, money which many acquired by trading-off payment for essentials and by taking out loans to pay for the electricity and gas bill. PG&E has caused wildfires that killed many, and destroyed the environment. Why should we pay more and suffer for their gross negligence?

On March 22, 2022, the youth Fellows of the New Voices are Rising (NVAR) program: Maryam Saad, Zoya Alam, Ahnaya McLean, Christie Fok, Angela Pineda, and Manuel J. Ochoa spoke on these issues at the CPUC public hearing to advocate against PG&E’s proposed rate hike. Despite the technical difficulties at the hearing, the youth overcame the obstacles and excelled in their testimonies, explaining how a bill increase of $35 would impact their families and community.

Here are the statements of the Fellows’ experiences at the public hearing:

“It was my second time participating in a hearing with the LCEA so I felt prepared and ultimately so proud of our efforts. I know for a fact that the youth voices were heard and played a major impact!” - Zoya Alam.

“It was my first time going to a hearing, so I was nervous, but I am glad that we, as youth, got to use our voice for such an important topic. I know our voices made a difference.” -Maryam Saad

“The rate hike hearing was an emotional roller coaster. I got the privilege of hearing other’s passionate stories, while also sharing my own. To voice my opinion and be heard was a powerful, joyful experience that I hope my peers and I can continue.” - Ahnaya McLean

“I’ve never spoken at a hearing before and it was extremely empowering to stand my ground to advocate for our needs. From this valuable experience, I learned that there is so much power in the youth’s voices and that we can make an impact with collective effort.” - Christie Fok

“It was definitely nerve-wracking having to speak and get used to all those technical difficulties [of the CPUC clerk and archaic phone system], but happy that all of us got our chances to
speak!” - Angela Pineda

“I thought it went well, we got to share our point of view and experiences.” - Manuel J. Ochoa

New Voices Are Rising are high school youth that live in Contra Costa, San Francisco and Alameda County.