By George Avalos
SAN BRUNO — PG&E is seeking an IRS ruling on state regulatory decisions linked to a fatal explosion in San Bruno, papers filed by the utility show, a move that could force customers’ monthly bills to rise and potentially pave the way for a PG&E tax benefit.
PG&E’s request to the IRS is connected to multiple rulings by the state Public Utilities Commission, including a decision in April 2015 whereby the PUC imposed a record-setting $1.6 billion penalty on PG&E for causing the San Bruno blast, PG&E confirmed Wednesday.
The PUC’s decisions helped to shield customers from some of the effects of higher gas bills, which have jumped since last August. Depending on how the IRS rules on PG&E’s request, the utility’s customers would receive even higher monthly gas bills, the company said. A favorable IRS ruling also could clear the way for PG&E, a convicted felon, to recoup some taxes.
“The Public Utilities Commission should not stand by and allow this maneuvering to continue unchallenged. Doing so permits PG&E to shove its penalty for the San Bruno tragedy onto the backs of American taxpayers,” state Sen. Jerry Hill, whose San Mateo County-Santa Clara County district includes San Bruno, said Wednesday.
Monthly gas bills have increased at a steady rate, starting last August and continuing this year, and they would have risen even more without the PUC ruling. Now, it’s possible that ratepayers could lose that buffer against rising utility costs.