SAN FRANCISCO – California's largest utility asked federal regulators Friday for permission to transfer its power plants and transmission systems to three newly created, federally controlled companies.
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. filed the request in six separate applications — about 20,000 pages — with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, spokesman Ron Low said Friday.
The plan has drawn heated criticism from consumer advocates, state officials and the head of the state's Public Utilities Commission who accused PG&E of trying to remove its power plants from state regulation.
PG&E, which owes billions of dollars to creditors, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection April 6, blaming its woes on a state rate freeze that left it unable to collect the full price of electricity from its customers for months.
Low said the filing is part of the utility's plan to emerge from bankruptcy and that it filed in conjunction with proceedings because federal approval could take up to 10 months. Transferring the assets would require federal regulatory approval.
The plan — originally outlined Sept. 20 when PG&E and its parent corporation jointly filed a plan of reorganization in U.S. Bankruptcy Court — proposes PG&E Corp. form a natural gas transmission company, an electrical transmission company and a company that would own PG&E's hydroelectric assets and nuclear power plant.
The three companies would be under the corporate umbrella of parent company PG&E Corp. and would be operated separately from the utility.
PG&E would split from its parent, then borrow against the assets of the three companies to raise about $13.2 billion to pay creditors without raising customer rates, Low said. The utility cannot borrow as much money against its assets under current state regulations, he said.
Loretta Lynch, president of the state's Public Utilities Commission, accused the utility of attempting to remove its power plants from state regulation so that it would be free to charge the going price for its electricity, rather than a rate set by the state.
"The bankruptcy court hasn't even ruled on PG&E's filing, so to go to FERC is very premature," said Terrie Prosper, a PUC spokeswoman. "I think it's another ploy to get what they want faster and to usurp the bankruptcy court's authority."