After multiple convictions for disasters that have killed people, destroyed property and ravaged communities, you might think Pacific Gas and Electric will finally be held accountable by California’s leaders. No, but you would be wrong.
Despite a long record of PG&E catastrophes and failures, Governor Gavin Newsom and other California politicians have broken promises to hold the company accountable, pocketing our taxes and keeping our safety safe. threatening.
PG&E filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after a camp fire that leveled the Butte County community of Paradise in 2018 killed 85 people. The Reclaim Our Power Utility Justice Campaign is a diverse coalition of fire survivors, and he was one of those demanding a new energy future that puts lives above corporate profit.
Under pressure, Newsom declared that PG&E’s days of greed and mismanagement were over. And he said that with PG&E going bankrupt, California had the power to set the terms of our energy future. But after the camera was turned off, Newsom quietly pulled back and handed the keys back to his PG&E.
For example, this month Newsom’s appointees at the California Public Utilities Commission voted to exclude PG&E from increased scrutiny. The company has been released from its regulatory probation despite his role in his Zogg Fire in Shasta County in 2020. The following year’s Dixie Fire began in Butte County, making it his second largest in California on record. And apparently, the company is under federal investigation after mosquito fires in Placer and El Dorado counties this year.
Last month, a quarterly report on the utility’s current “wildfire mitigation plan” revealed once again that it was falling behind on required repairs and inspections and not adhering to its own timeline.
Despite all this, Newsom recently lobbied the federal government to spend $1.1 billion to help PG&E keep its Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant operational. And his regulator’s recent revisions to rooftop solar reimbursement rates advance his PG&E dominance in the space by reducing people’s ability to produce their own energy.
Newsom has chosen to retain control of PG&E, and the people of California continue to suffer as a result. Our homes are burning down, our lungs are damaged, and our utility bills are skyrocketing. Yet our governor is on the side of the perpetrators.
But governors can change course. He faces a decision this month on PG&E’s safety certificate, or what we call a “burning license.” Newsom’s appointees also have the authority to initiate the process of public acquisitions of utilities under state law.
Through these or other means, Newsom must explain how it intends to hold PG&E accountable. Small fines are not working. Management change did not work. Creating new bureaucratic processes will not work. And letting hedge funds and other investors dictate our energy future while California burns certainly won’t work.
Governors need to revoke PG&E’s burn permits, initiate a public takeover, and help build an energy system that works for people, not unexplainable corporations.
Karym Sanchez is the lead manager of the North Bay Organizing Project and a founding leadership team member of the Reclaim Our Power Utility Justice Campaign, a coalition working to transform California’s energy system. Sierra Lewitter is the project’s Climate Justice Task Force leader.