Local leaders call on CPUC, PG&E to do better in wake of power shutoffs

ByMelanie Woodrow via KGO logo
Friday, November 8, 2019
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PG&E reported a loss of $1.6 billion last quarter, driven by catastrophic wildfires that have been blamed on the utility's outdated transmission lines.

SACRAMENTO (KGO) -- There were strong words for the California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday from local leaders demanding the CPUC and PG&E do better by customers in the wake of the public safety power shutoffs.

Lake County has had its share of natural disasters. The county's District 1 supervisor says he considers PG&E's recent public safety power shutoffs to be just as destructive.

RELATED: PG&E reports $1.6B loss last quarter, expects more than $6B in wildfire costs

"Each one of the PSPS has turned off all 67,000 residents in our area with power, it's unbelievable," said Supervisor Moke Simon.

Simon was one of several people who addressed the California Public Utilities Commission Thursday.

"The day that the fire happened, they turned the power off at 4 p.m., the fire happened at 7:30 at night, the Kincade fire, so good intentions don't always get the job done," said Simon.

RELATED: Gov. Gavin Newsom pressures PG&E to 'transform' utility

The Utility Reform Network's (TURN) Communications Chief Mindy Spatt says the message during the public comment period was loud and clear.

"We heard a lot of local government representatives talking about the enormous costs, the costs to the governments themselves to provide emergency services, the costs to small businesses," said Spatt.

Costs Spatt says shouldn't be passed on to customers.

"Our members are upset because they've been paying PG&E all along what have we been paying for," said Spatt.

RELATED: 22 mayors, including San Jose's, pushing to make PG&E customer owned

Meantime, PG&E reported a third quarter net loss prior to the open of trading Thursday, sending its stock tumbling.

The utility filed for bankruptcy in January.

"That is their financial situation. Every month I pay my PG&E bill when it comes in the mail just like everyone else does and we expect the companies that we pay to give us the services that we're paying for," said Simon.

Simon says while Lake County understands wildfires, perhaps better than most, he feels public safety power shutoffs are not the answer.

"The message is we can do better, PG&E needs to be held accountable," said Simon.

RELATED: ABC7 special 'Fire, Power, Wind: What Now?'

The CPUC is expected to take a closer look next week at all the ways the shutoffs and notifications did not go as expected. Lake County's District 1 Supervisor says someone from the county will definitely be there.

PG&E released the following statement:

"We appreciate the feedback we've received from our regulator, the Governor's office, state agencies, our customers and our communities throughout this historic weather event and resulting safety shutoffs. We've taken those requests and suggestions seriously and are working to implement many of them for future PSPS events. While we recognize that the scope of these events is unsustainable in the long term, it was the correct decision given the large-scale, historic weather event and ensuing equipment damage that unfolded across our service area. We appreciate the offer of ongoing assistance from state agencies and continue to work closely with the representatives from CalFIRE, CalOES and the CPUC. We look forward to continuing to work with our regulator on improving the PSPS process, and all wildfire-safety related issues in the future."

Go here for the latest stories about the PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoffs.