PG&E plan to use wildfire funds on ads sparks critics’ fire

Jaxon Van Derbeken, NBC BAYAREA

“It’s outrageous to charge customers for promotional advertising that only promotes the utility,” said Katy Morsony, an attorney with the ratepayer advocacy group TURN.

PG&E recently acknowledged that it intends to have customers pay for an ongoing $6 million ad campaign, calling it “safety communications.” But critics say the utility shouldn’t be allowed to tap funds earmarked to help prevent wildfires on what they consider blatantly promotional commercials.

In the ad campaign that began last year, PG&E’s CEO Patti Poppe says that “to make our power system safer and more reliable…we’re transforming your local utility from the underground up.”

She goes on to talk about an ambitious plan to underground 10,000 miles of power lines across 21 counties that she says will make “us safer and it’s less expensive in the long run.”

PG&E recently told state legislators that it wants customers to pay for the three-year campaign out of a pool of funds known as the “fire risk mitigation memorandum account.”