CA Gov. Gavin Newsom suggests state takeover of PG&E

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom suggested a state takeover of PG&E unless the company creates a safe plan of action after the fires caused by its equipment and its 2018 file for bankruptcy.

In recent weeks, PG&E has been criticized for cutting off power in various counties in an attempt to prevent wildfires. So far, the mayors of 22 cities, including Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, have begun to push for a state takeover of the energy giant, according to a letter sent Tuesday to the California Public Utilities Commission and Newsom from the group of California mayors and county supervisors.

Mayor Arreguín also criticized the corporation in a tweet and stressed how he thinks there is a need for customer ownership.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that in order to provide reliable, resilient, and sustainable energy to Northern California, we must transform PG&E into a customer-owned utility,” Arreguín said in a tweet.

Arreguín, along with five county supervisors who collectively represent about 5 million residents, signed a letter Nov. 4 urging PG&E to be transformed into a customer-owned utility.

The letter suggested that mutual ownership, which will render the utility exempt from federal tax and payments to shareholders, would lessen the impact of costs. According to the letter, mutual ownership will also raise more capital and will instill trust in the public if consumers are allowed more control.

The mayors of Oakland, San Jose, Sunnyvale and Richmond signed the letter along with Arreguín. San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Marin, Yolo and San Benito supervisors joined.

“We face the need for a completely re-engineered and reconstructed system to adapt to the realities of climate change and poorly maintained infrastructure,” the letter said. “PG&E cannot meet these challenges if it stumbles out of bankruptcy, barely able to raise capital, and suffering prohibitive costs.”

PG&E has come under scrutiny for causing several wildfires, as well as operating run-down equipment, according to The New York Times. After the Camp Fire — which killed 85 people and was caused by PG&E’s power lines — the company filed for bankruptcy.

As of press time, East Bay Community Energy declined to comment on the potential state takeover.

If the corporation does not emerge from bankruptcy by June 30 with a plan focused on safety, Newsom may initiate a government takeover, though it is unclear how the takeover would be implemented.

Contact Devaki Dikshit at [email protected] and follow them on Twitter at @DevakiDevay.