SACRAMENTO (CBS SF/AP) — San Francisco-based utility Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. named Bill Johnson as its chief executive officer and president on Wednesday along with 10 new board members amid a bankruptcy proceeding.
Some members include former U.S. ambassadors and members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Johnson is ending a run leading the Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation’s largest publicly owned utility, which serves parts of seven southeastern states. PG&E is owned by investors.
The utility’s “board refreshment” comes as it faces intense scrutiny for its equipment’s role in starting devastating California wildfires and its overall approach to safety. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January, saying it couldn’t afford potentially tens of billions of dollars in wildfire liability costs.
“We have heard the calls for change and have taken action today to ensure that PG&E has the right leadership to bring about real and dynamic change that reinforces our commitment to safety, continuous improvement and operational excellence,” the board said in a statement.
A board meeting will be held as soon as possible to seat the new board, but all members will be up for election by at an annual shareholders meeting in May. Three current board members are remaining.
Gov. Gavin Newsom publicly criticized the utility last week, saying its leaders planned to put hedge fund financiers and people with little to no California experience on its new board.
His spokesman, Nathan Click, said some changes had been made in the slate announced Wednesday, but the governor still had concerns.
“While changes were made in the last few days to augment the safety and government expertise on the board, this proposed board still raises concerns — particularly the large representation of Wall Street interests and most board nominees’ lack of relevant California experience,” Click said in an emailed statement.
California plans to hold the utility “to the highest standards,” he said.
California senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) said the changes at the top come at a critical time for the utility.
“PG&E is in critical need of leadership that will put safety first and build public trust,” Dodd said in a statement.
“The existing board has lacked credibility, and I have been calling for changes for months. It’s incumbent on any new board members to create a corporate culture of safety. The proof will be in actions and results, not words or symbolic gestures.”
The board members include several people with energy and utility expertise as well as people with jobs in investment management and bankruptcy expertise.
© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.