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Calif. Utility Rates Hiked 47 Pct.

May 15, 2001

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ California’s residential ratepayers will pay up to 47 percent more for electricity under a plan approved Tuesday by the state’s utility board.

The 3-2 vote came nearly two months after the California Public Utilities Commission approved a $5 billion electric rate hike, the largest in state history. At issue Tuesday was how the increase should be allocated among various groups of customers.

The approved plan is a revised version of one released by PUC President Loretta Lynch last week that would have spared many residential users from hikes and placed more of the burden on businesses and farms.

Lynch reworked her plan after an outcry from businesses proclaiming the proposed rate hikes would doom California’s economy and a critical statement from Gov. Gray Davis.

Details of the final plan were not immediately available.

Since it approved rate hikes March 27, the PUC has crammed a year’s worth of work into six weeks, struggling to fashion rates that simultaneously recoup the $5.2 billion the state has spent buying power for the customers of the state’s two largest utilities and trigger enough conservation to help fend off some of this summer’s expected rolling blackouts.

Lynch’s original plan would have raised residential rates an average of 35-40 percent. Both versions of her plan charge progressively higher rates the more electricity is used.

The plan will affect about 9 million customers of the state’s two largest utilities, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and Southern California Edison Co.

Low-income customers, customers of San Diego Gas and Electric Co. and those who buy electricity directly from energy wholesalers, such as the California university system, are shielded from rate hikes.

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