Bankruptcy-bound Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) didn’t do enough to head off its alleged liability for a series of wildfires, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday during a one-hour state-of-the-state address, during which he said a “strike team” has been assigned to work with the utility on developing a mitigation plan.
Noting that citizens are frustrated and angry, Newsom said PG&E, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January, “didn’t do enough to secure dangerous equipment or plan for the future, and my administration will work to make sure PG&E upholds its obligations.” He said he has formed a team of national bankruptcy law and financial experts from the energy sector.
“Together they will develop a comprehensive strategy that will be presented in 60 days,” he told a joint session of the state legislature.
The eventual response will address fire victims, utility employees and ratepayers, he said, and the administration will invest in greater safety and renewable energy goals that de-emphasize fossil fuels, including natural gas.
“The problems we face are far greater than PG&E,” Newsom said. “Climate change is putting pressure on all of our utilities — public and private. Southern California Edison Co. and San Diego Gas and Electric both recently had their credit ratings downgraded.”
With energy markets evolving, electric supplies increasingly are coming from outside of the investor-owned utilities, the new governor said.
“Regulations and insurance practices created decades ago didn’t anticipate these changes. We must map out longer-term strategies, not just for the utilities’ future, but for California’s energy future.”
Separately on Tuesday, PG&E spokesperson Andrew Castagnola said the combination utility and its parent company, PG&E Corp. will release 4Q2018 and full-year earnings late this month, but they will not be hosting a quarterly earnings conference call. He added that PG&E “will continue to revisit” its approach in future quarters.
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