"Enough is enough, the farmers have been hit by rate increases every year, we don't need to continue to raise by 10% this year and 10 % next year" stated Jeff Cripe. Chico walnut farmer Jeff Cripe, like many california farmers is fed up, with PG&E rate increases
"PG&E has increased the rates steadily over the last five years or so anyway, and I'm paying almost double now from what I was paying for my electricity for my irrigation pumps in 2005" explained Cripe. Now, that amount is expected to rise again. During a recent CPUC hearing, North State farmers testified against a proposed double digit rate increase in electricity and natural gas usage. Attornies for the California Farm Bureau Federation say rates could increase between 13% and 19%.
"It's not good timing on their part, it'll be a difficult adjustment for us" Cripe says. If the new rates do take affect, he says he can expect to see up to a $5,000 dollar increase on his PG&E bill. But PG&E claims that increases would not be nearly as high as farmers are fearing. "For PG&E agricultural customers this will result in about a 6% increase" stated spokesperson for PG&E Paul Moreno.
PG&E officials say they are not immune to the hit the economy has taken, but they do keep their customers best interest in mind. "We certainly understand that in times like this, that rate impacts, you know can be felt, and we're very sympathetic to that" explained Moreno.
But farmers say that sympathy doesn't help their bottom line. " I would like to see PG&E maybe look and see where they can do cuts before they just pass onto the growers these increased expenses" Cripe says. More hearings are expected before the proposed increase would take effect sometime next year. But farmers like Cripe say it may not matter what they have to say in the end, he says " You feel kind of powerless, we just sort of have to takewhat they throw at us". The first formal hearings are set to take place at the CPUC's office in San Fracisco on June 21st.