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Customers slam PG&E's proposed rate hikes at utility commission hearing

PG&E wants a more than $1 billion rate increase equaling more than 12% for 2020, meaning a typical residential ratepayer would pay $10.57 more a month.

STOCKTON, Calif. — Inside of a state building on Channel Street in downtown Stockton, customers lined up one-by-one to take their shot at the Pacific Gas & Electric Company.

While the room wasn't packed, people came for one thing: tell an administrative judge overseeing the hearing that will decide on the rate increase, that PG&E has a history of negligence not using previous rate increases for fire prevention years earlier.

"The idea that we want to give these guys more money is maddening," said customer Dianne Buettner.

One person cited the San Bruno pipeline explosion.

"Twice they did nothing to repair that pipeline," said M.E. Gladis.

RELATED: Utilities Commission to hold public hearings on PG&E rate hikes

PG&E wants a more than $1 billion rate increase equaling more than 12% for 2020. That would mean a typical residential ratepayer would pony up $10.57 more a month. But, more than half the increase, or 6.8%, would go to wildfire safety.

PG&E Vice President Roy Kuga presented the company's case.

"Our proposal outlines our plans to upgrade our infrastructure and technologies that will enhance our capabilities to provide safe and reliable gas and electrical services," Kuga said.

But when the vice president sat down, he did so hearing a continued onslaught of accusations, not just against PG&E but against the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) itself.

"It sounds like the CPUC is not able to just decline the rate hikes," said David Salkoff.

Ratepayer Jim Beam became emotional, saying he's worried about rotating outages and his elderly mother.

"And my grandmother is 101. What are they going to do if the power is shut off?" said Beam.

RELATED: The history of PG&E's problems

ABC10 tried to catch up to Kuga for comment after the hearing, but instead he pointed us to a PG&E spokesperson to address the contentious criticism towards his company's proposal.

"We appreciate the opportunity to listen to our customers and hear about what they have to say about this funding proposal. It's ultimately decided upon by the California Public Utilities Commission," said PG&E Spokesperson, Kristi Jourdan.

Later Wednesday evening, ABC10 received a comment from PG&E's Vice President. 

"I think the other thing to point out is where the money is not going toward," said Robert Kenney, PG&E Vice President. "It's not going to executive compensation. It's not going to my salary or my colleagues. It's not going to pay for any potential claims associated with the North Bay and 2018 wildfires."

This was the second public hearing for a rate hike. Seven more meetings are planned, including two on Thursday at 1 p.m and 6 p.m. in Chico, near Paradise, where the Camp Fire became the deadliest wildfire in California history.

A decision on the rate hike will be made sometime after August.

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WATCH MORE: How to control California fires, scientists explain | FIRE – POWER – MONEY, Ep. 1 of 3

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