I-TEAM: Governor calls for blackout rebates, state orders emergency hearing

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Amid harsh, new criticism for Pacific Gas and Electric over last week's historic blackouts, Governor Gavin Newsom is demanding rebates for customers, and state regulators are ordering PG&E to an emergency meeting later this week.

PG&E was supposed to have ten business days to write an after-action report on the blackouts, explaining the decision and explaining why there were so many problems with its execution. But today, the state ordered the CEO and his staff to testify at an emergency meeting this Friday.

I-TEAM: PG&E facing intense criticism for holding wine-tasting this week while planning blackouts

"The situation frankly has been unacceptable."

After those comments last week, California Public Utilities Commission President Marybel Batjer is demanding action from PG&E, setting up new requirements to address the myriad of problems that arose during the blackouts that affected 738-thousand customers in 35 counties.

The utility must address:

- Why its website crashed due to high demand, and ensure it doesn't happen again

- Must coordinate better with local governments,

- Must provide accurate blackout maps in a timely manner,

- Must accelerate steps to turn the power back on after a forced outage, and more.

PG&E President and CEO Bill Johnson declined the I-Team's request for an interview today, but did address the criticism at a news conference Saturday.

RELATED: CEO Bill Johnson apologizes, responds to criticism of Public Safety Power Shutoff

"We own where we are today, we have to deal with the risk in the system that we have and one of the tools that we have to decrease risk so significantly is turning off power."

Johnson said the utility has now identified 50 incidents of tree limbs into power lines or lines coming down that could have sparked a major wildfire, if PG&E had not turned off the power. And he said crews completed an incredible feat.

"With remarkable efficiency, they basically inspected 25,000 miles of line roughly the circumference of the earth, and restored essential service to our neighbors."

But, Governor Gavin Newsom wrote today, "I am profoundly disappointed in PG&E's decisions and neglect over the course of many years, which led to this extreme power shutoff event." Newsom said the blackouts caused "too much hardship" and he is now urging PG&E to provide affected residential customers an automatic credit or rebate of $100 and small businesses $250, funded by shareholders, not ratepayers.

RELATED: Blackouts may cost state $2.6 billion, I-Team investigates

"PG&E did the logical thing, it could not operate its system safely, so it had to shut it down," says UC Berkeley Public Policy Expert Steve Weismann. He tells the I-Team PG&E is an easy target, but should not be the only target.

"There was a failure and where you want that failure to reside within the company itself, with the regulators, with the legislature. There's enough, there's enough guilty perhaps to go all the way around

The PUC will be holding that emergency meeting this Friday, with a demand appearance by PG&E President and CEO Bill Johnson and his high-level staff. Johnson released a statement late today that says in part, "We appreciate the significant impact that turning off power for safety has on our customers and the state. While we recognize this was a hardship for millions of people throughout Northern and Central California, we made that decision to keep customers and communities safe. That was the right decision.

We share the state's focus on reducing the threat of catastrophic wildfires in California, and that's why we took this action. We welcome inquiry and feedback from all our stakeholders, including our regulators, lawmakers, customers and communities and will be reaching out to them for comment in the days and weeks ahead."

PG&E provided a fact sheet about the outages. You can read the whole thing here.

For the latest stories about PG&E's Public Safety Power Shutoff go here.

For a look at more stories and videos by Dan Noyes and the ABC7 News I-Team.
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