Judge Rejects PG&E; Plan

From Bloomberg News

PG&E; Corp.'s $12-billion plan to reorganize utility unit Pacific Gas & Electric Co. should be modified before California energy regulators approve it, an administrative law judge ruled Tuesday.

The judge, Robert Barnett, recommended that the Public Utilities Commission specify that it retain authority to determine whether the utility's rates are reasonable.

Barnett approved other aspects of the plan backed by PG&E; and commission President Michael R. Peevey.

A majority of the five- member commission must approve the plan next month before it can be implemented. A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge also must give his approval.

Barnett said he had to reject the plan as written because it would give the court jurisdiction over Pacific Gas & Electric's rates.

"The commission cannot be powerless to protect PG&E;'s ratepayers from unjust and unreasonable rates or practices during the nine-year term of the proposed settlement," Barnett said in a decision released in San Francisco, where the utility is based.

The utility filed for bankruptcy protection in April 2001 after racking up billions of dollars in debt related to the energy crisis of 2000 and 2001.

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