Closer look into Governor Gavin Newsom's letter about PG&E's consideration for its new board of directors

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Friday, March 29, 2019
Gov. Newsom's rips PG&E in letter about its consideration of new board of directors
California Governor Gavin Newsom sent a letter addressed to Pacific Gas and Electric Interim CEO John Simon regarding the utility company's consideration for its new board of directors. The I-Team's Dan Noyes looks into the letter.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Pacific Gas & Electric has not made their picks for a new board public, but the governor's office tells me after a private briefing on the plan, Gavin Newsom decided to send this very tough letter.

Governor Newsom's letter on Thursday is addressed to Pacific Gas and Electric Interim CEO John Simon.

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"Anything at all to the consumers who are worried about the wildfires for the coming season?," I asked him in January after a federal judge blasted the utility over its wildfire mitigation plans. He did not say a word to us.

Governor Newsom writes, "I am troubled to learn that PG&E is primed to reconstitute its board with hedge fund financiers, out-of-state executives and others with little or no experience in California and inadequate expertise in utility operations, regulation and safety."

The governor adds, "With this move, PG&E would send a clear message that it is prioritizing quick profits for Wall Street over public safety and reliable and affordable energy service."

"I think the governor did the right thing in calling PG&E out," said Mark Toney, consumer advocate from The Utility Reform Network.

Toney told the I-Team on Thursday who he would like to see on the new PG&E board. "Engineers who know how to operate a utility, safety experts who know how to run it safely, people who have a commitment to affordable reliable service, so that the prices don't skyrocket," he said.

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PG&E declared bankruptcy in January, citing more than $30-billion in wildfire losses.

Governor Newsom went on to say, "Time and again, PG&E has broken the public trust and its responsibilities to ratepayers, wildfire victims, and employees. This board appears to be more of the same."

In response, PG&E emailed me: "We understand and recognize the serious concerns expressed by the Governor and share the Governor's urgency for action. We recognize the importance of adding perspectives to the Board that will bring about the right changes in safety, as well as help address the serious operational and financial challenges the business faces now and in the future."

I asked a follow up, but PG&E would not tell me whether that statement means they will consider changing their slate of directors, in response to the governor's letter. The company's shareholders will take up the issue, voting on directors at its annual meeting on May 21st.