SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- State lawmakers couldn't stop PG&E from going bankrupt, and now they're figuring out how to protect consumers and wildfire victims, and prepare for the coming wildfire season.
Their critics emphasize that PG&E is not insolvent. In the bankruptcy filing, PG&E lists $71.2 billion in assets, $51.4 billion in debts. But the board of directors cites "the actual and potential liabilities of the utility" meaning the expected $30 billion in losses connected to wildfires in recent years.
State Senator Bill Dodd of Napa authored SB 901 to help PG&E pay the 2017 wildfire victims, and the ABC7 I-Team asked him about the bankruptcy filing. "You know, given the extensive record of mismanagement of PG&E, this is not surprising at all," Dodd said.
One of PG&E's largest shareholders, Blue Mountain Capital, is calling on the utility's board of directors to be replaced, saying "... the Board continues to fail the Company, wildfire victims, customers, employees, creditors, shareholders and the people of California."
Senator Dodd agrees. "Without a doubt," he said. "The idea that we still have five or six directors on the Board of Directors of a public utility that were there during the San Bruno gas explosion and were there during the North Bay fires and still are there after the Camp Fire, it's unconscionable to me."
PG&E Interim CEO John Simon said Tuesday that safety remains their focus. "Throughout this process, we are fully committed to enhancing our wildfire safety efforts, as well as helping restoration and rebuilding efforts across the communities impacted by the devastating Northern California wildfires."
But ratepayers, wildfire victims and their attorneys, and consumer advocates are skeptical. Mark Toney with The Utility Reform Network calls the PG&E bankruptcy filing "a scam. Most companies do everything they can to keep out of bankruptcy...PG&E is trying to protect itself from accountability for its negligence, PG&E is trying to keep from paying claims that are due to people."
Governor Gavin Newsom reacted to the bankruptcy filing: "That was PG&E's choice but it does not change my focus...to ensure that Californians have access to safe, reliable and affordable service, that victims and employees are treated fairly."
Lawyers for PG&E appear in a federal criminal court tomorrow. The utility is on probation for safety violations and obstructing justice. The judge in that case is pushing PG&E to make its system safer, to help prevent wildfires.
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