SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Dozens of protesters showed up at a meeting of the California Public Utilities Commission is San Francisco Thursday, demanding action against Pacific Gas and Electric over its role in the catastrophic Camp Fire, including breaking up the utility.
Thursday was the first meeting of the CPUC – which regulates PG&E and other utilities – since the Camp Fire, where it’s believed PG&E may have once again played a role in a destructive wildfire.
Earlier this year, PG&E power lines and equipment were blamed for 12 of the catastrophic Northern California wildfires started in October 2017.
On Thursday, dozens of people came out to say, enough. Protests inside the meeting led to a brief recess before order was restored.
Once the meeting resumed, dozens of people spoke during the public comment period, and they had a lot to say
“This is the second straight year that we’ve had to choke on the carbonized remains of our neighbors,” said Chico resident Alexander Post, who claims the current system gives PG&E no reason to change.
“It’s evil, but its not illogical, because if you’re going to bail out PG&E, to provide public money to socialize their losses, what is their incentive to be safe? To act safely? There is none,” said Post.
Protester Richard Becker says the commission itself is part of the problem.
“You don’t really regulate them. You protect them,” Becker said. “That is the role of the CPUC. It is to make it appear as if there is regulation when in fact there is just enabling of these corporations.
Thursday, the message was clear: PG&E should go bankrupt. Then state or local governments should take over.
While the commissioners didn’t comment on that, CPUC President, Michael Picker did say something important Thursday. Picker said he’s ordering an examination of the corporate governance, structure and operations of PG&E, with everything on the table.
“If we have a better option to achieve these goals, we have to consider it,” said Picker.
So the commission could consider breaking up the utility or restructuring it – but that takes time. As an example of how slowly things move: Thursday,the commission voted to require certain safety measures at PG&E in reponse to the deadly San Bruno explosion of 2010.
So we’re probably not going to see big changes anytime soon, unless the legislature gets involved.
But for people at the meeting Thursday, patience is gone; it burned up in the fires.
“We will be back to take over the PUC meeting if they continue to press for bailing out PG&E,” said protester Jackie Barshak.