Pacific Gas & Electric asked regulators Wednesday to grant a $3.6 billion rate hike to help it pay for hardening its power systems to prevent deadly wildfires.
The nation’s largest electric utility requested the hike beginning in 2023, with half of the increase devoted to wildfire safety, spokeswoman Lynsey Paulo told the Sacramento Bee.
The hike would increase the average residential bill by $36 a month for gas and electric service, although the state’s Public Utilities Commission typically only grants a portion of any requested rate increase, the Bee said.
PG&E, which has some 16 million customers in central and Northern California, sought the hike as the state prepares to enter the hot summer months amid warnings that the state is likely to face one of its earliest and most dangerous wildfire seasons yet.
Much of the state already is in a drought and experts are predicting hotter, larger and fiercer blazes both in California and throughout the West.
The Biden administration said Wednesday it is hiring more federal firefighters — and immediately raising their pay as the summer looms.
“The truth is we’re playing catch-up″ on preparing for extreme heat and wildfires, Biden said, calling federal efforts “under-resourced″ compared with the deadly threat posed by climate change and extreme drought.
In Northern California, thousands of people were under evacuation orders because of a fire burning about 250 miles (402.34 kilometers) north of San Francisco.