California lawmakers want to review controversial electrical charging

A state House committee voted Wednesday in favor of a bill that would require legislative review of a controversial new fixed monthly fee on electricity bills.

The state Public Utilities Commission, led by appointees of Gov. Gavin Newsom, approved a fee of $24.15 per month last week. In exchange for paying the new fees, consumers will receive a lower price for each kilowatt-hour of energy they use.

The Newsom administration says the new billing structure is necessary to encourage more people to buy electric vehicles and replace gas appliances in their homes, which would reduce the use of fossil fuels that cause global warming.

A coalition of more than 250 consumers and other groups protested the new monthly fees, saying millions of Californians who live in apartments or small homes that use little electricity will see their bills increase to support those who use much more energy.

Several members of the Assembly Utilities and Energy Committee said Wednesday that there should have been a discussion about new flat fees in 2022. That’s when Newsom proposed them in a massive bill tied to his budget. In a few days It passed with little public discussion.

Pacific Gas and Electric asked the commission for new monthly fees In an organizational file Only three months before the bill was approved.

“We should have had this discussion two years ago,” said Mark Berman, a Democrat from Menlo Park. “We really don’t know what impact this will have.”

In January, Representative Jackie Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, introduced a bill to repeal much of Newsom’s 2022 bill.

Assembly leaders last month blocked Irwin’s bill from being heard in committee, but she then agreed to weaken the bill.

Her current bill, known as AB 1999, would require a study in 2028 on who pays more or less under the new $24.15 fee and whether it has unintended consequences. The Legislature will then decide how to change the fees, she said.

The coalition argued that Newsom’s bill would cause a financial windfall to electric companies because it eliminated the $10 cap on flat fees that had been in place since 2013.

Irwin’s bill would prevent utilities from raising fixed fees more than the rate of inflation.

The new fees affect customers of investor-owned energy companies, including PG&E, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric. This does not apply to customers of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power or other municipal utilities.

Irwin said Wednesday that the Legislature needs to review flat fees instead of leaving the decision to the utilities commission. She said the commission has become a “rubber stamp” for utility requests.

The committee voted 9-0 to advance the bill to the House Appropriations Committee.

Fixed fees are scheduled to begin in late 2025.

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