‘It has to to be completely re-imagined, completely transformed company. If PG&E can’t do it, we’ll do it for them.’
During a Public Policy Institute of California event on Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom confirmed that that California would takeover PG&E if the company doesn’t make significant changes by June 30th.
“There’s a culture there that transcends, and if it doesn’t change that state of California is poised to take over,” said Newsom on Wednesday.
For over a year PG&E has been in bankruptcy. The bankruptcy itself was largely caused by insurance claims and a large number of damage and death suits following PG&E’s negligence in accidentally starting the disastrous Camp Fire in November of 2018.
But while the bankruptcy remains the largest factor in the Governor’s takeover decision, PG&E’s decision to cut off electricity to preemptively stop any future wildfires broke the camel’s back. The planned blackouts left millions of Californians in the dark, and threatened many elderly, low-income, and disabled people who relied on electricity to live and work. After a few weeks of off and on blackouts Governor Newsom finally threatened a takeover if PG&E didn’t shape up soon.
Despite possible legal challenges that may block a takeover, Newsom didn’t let up on Wednesday. He not only reiterated a takeover by July, but he also announced that takeover plans would start to be formulated as early as February.
“We are making progress on governance, we need to make progress on financing,” stated Newsom. “If we don’t see progress in the next few weeks then we’ll be laying out the architecture for a very detailed plan for a state takeover.”
“It has to to be completely re-imagined, completely transformed company. If PG&E can’t do it, we’ll do it for them.”
“There’s going to be a new company or the state of California will take it over.”
Despite the greater threat against PG&E, the Governor did say that the state had been working with the company to get out of bankruptcy, highlighted a change of company leadership and a retooling of finances as key points in the negotiations.
“We are meeting with PG&E on a daily basis, added Governor Newsom at the event in Sacramento. “We are making progress on governance. We are making progress on finance.”
Experts say that while a takeover is still unlikely, some level of control by the state is possible.
“We don’t know exactly what the two sides are saying,” said Los Angeles-area energy policy expert Jackson Tyler. “But the state has a large say here. This is a company who has been wrecking the lives of countless people in the state for the past few years, and California will do what it can to stop it.”
“This isn’t about power or taking control of a company for the sake of it. These are lawmakers receiving countless calls and emails and letters and texts demanding action before more people are hurt or die because of them. So they’ll do what they have to.”
The deadline for PG&E to get out of bankruptcy before any state action is June 30th.
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