Now under the management of a familiar federal bankruptcy court judge in San Francisco, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) is also being tracked by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), FERC and a federal judge overseeing the fallout of a 2010 natural gas pipeline rupture and explosion.
PG&E has estimated that it faces up to $30 billion in liability for many of the nearly two dozen devastating wildfires that hit Northern California in the past two years. The total estimate was lowered last month when the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection determined that a private electrical line caused the 2017 Tubbs fire.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday urged the bankruptcy court to ensure that wildfire survivors, PG&E employees, and customers have “strong representation” inside the voluntary Chapter 11 filing made last month.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has claimed that it has joint authority with the bankruptcy court regarding the long-term renewable energy power purchase contracts signed by PG&E. The utility is seeking a court injunction against the FERC action.
CPUC President Michael Picker said state regulators expect “PG&E to follow state laws and regulations and to continue to implement state mandated programs.” PG&E is required to make a filing to the CPUC detailing the terms of its debtor-in-possession (DIP) bankruptcy financing.
Following the Chapter 11 filing, “the commission’s immediate responsibility is to ensure the continuation of safe and reliable service by PG&E” through its bankruptcy proceeding, Picker said.
In separate court proceedings, U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup of the Northern District of California is requiring PG&E to file its wildfire mitigation plan, previously submitted to the CPUC, by Wednesday (Feb. 6). Comments are due by Feb. 20.
Alsup also plans a sentencing hearing in ongoing proceedings related to PG&E’s San Bruno gas transmission failure in 2010, which killed several people and destroyed parts of a neighborhood. PG&E was sentenced in 2017 to five years probation for each of six criminal counts in which it was found guilty.
Bankruptcy Judge Dennis Montali has been assigned the PG&E proceeding; he also oversaw the utility’s 2004 Chapter 11 reorganization. On Friday, Montali gave interim approvals to PG&E motions that allow it to implement the proposed DIP financing, continue its existing utility customer programs and continue paying employee wages and health care benefits.
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