Last week Governor Gavin Newsom said that PG&E “no longer exists” and threatened a state takeover. Today, state Senator Scott Wiener introduced a bill that would do just that.
There is no direct relation between state senator introducing a bill creating a public takeover of PG&E today, as reported by KPIX, and the fact that PG&E stock is having a significant rally, according to Yahoo Finance (It’s up 12 percent in the last two business days.) But these things are happening for the same reason — the PG&E bankruptcy. Investors are confident that the bankrupt and beleaguered utility can get out of bankruptcy with the wrist-slap move of adding a few safety experts to its board of directors. By the Los Angeles Times reports that Sen. Wiener has prepared the nuclear option with a bill for the state to take over PG&E, revoking the 115-year-old company’s authority to do business here in California.
This morning at 10:45 am, we’ll be announcing new legislation to make PG&E a publicly owned utility. Location: State Building Steps, 350 McAllister St., San Francisco.— Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) February 3, 2020
“PG&E is a failed utility with a track record of prioritizing profits over safety. The ham-handed, damaging mass blackouts it levied last year only serve to underscore how broken PG&E is,” Wiener said in a release. “Public ownership of PG&E will allow California to hit the refresh button and create a utility focused on the public interest.”
Here in San Francisco, where Mayor Breed and City Attorney Dennis Herrera offered PG&E $2.5 billion in a friendly takeover offer but were rebuffed, the mayor chimed in too. “We are continuing our work to acquire PG&E assets so we can deliver clean, renewable energy for all of our residents,” Breed said in that same release. “We need aggressive action if we are going for meet our climate goals and change how we safely deliver power in our state.”
Our legislation, introduced today, to make PG&E a publicly owned utility now has a bill number: SB 917— Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) February 4, 2020
The bill will be available online later today.
Wiener’s bill would allow for certain municipalities buy up PG&E’s lines and assets within their jurisdiction, and effectively to secede from the new state-owned PG&E, should the state-owned PG&E ever become a reality.
The nitty-gritties of Wiener’s bill show that it is not an immediate takeover. The transition from investor ownership to California Public Utility Commission Control would be spread over five years, so who knows how many wildfires PG&E would cause during that period.
PG&E could avoid all of this unpleasantness by submitting a bankruptcy exit plan that fully satisfies Newsom and state regulators, if that is possible at this point. Newsom has not commented on PG&E’s latest small-bore proposal to just put some public safety experts on its board of directors, nor has he remarked on Wiener’s proposal that was just unveiled today. But he has spoken in favor of a state takeover multiple times in the past.
Image: By LPS.1 via Wikimedia Commons