SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — After last week’s Public Safety Power Shutoff by PG&E that left more than 700,000 customers without power, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday called on the utility to give a credit or rebate to affected residents and businesses.
In a letter to PG&E president William Johnson, Newsom said the San Francisco-based utility “was not adequately prepared to conduct or implement a power outage, especially one on this unprecedented scale.”
About 738,000 customers lost power in the preemptive shutoff across more than 30 counties starting early Wednesday as part of PG&E’s efforts to prevent its equipment from sparking wildfires.
The governor’s letter noted that PG&E’s website did not work for much of the week as customers tried to determine if they were in an area that would lose power, and call centers had long wait times for information.
Newsom also criticized the utility for failing to properly maintain its equipment, saying “this outage was the direct result of decades of PG&E prioritizing profit over public safety, mismanagement, inadequate investment in fire safety and fire prevention measures, and neglect of critical infrastructure.”
The governor called on PG&E to give a credit or rebate of $100 to residential customers who were affected, and $250 per small business.
Aiden Ciani owns Squeeze Juice Bar in Moraga and says he had to throw out $600 worth of vegetables, fruits and ice cream during the PG&E power shutoff. He lost $2,000 in sales over two days.
“I called PG&E asked them if they can reimburse me, at least partial reimbursement for what I lost, but they said no,” said Ciani.
Ciani said a potential rebate is “better than nothing.”
“Sounds like a good idea to me, I don’t know where the money’s coming from, since they’re apparently bankrupt,” said Marisa Poggi of Orinda.
“It’s extremely inconvenient because we have a lot of food that’s in the freezer and refrigerator and we had to deal with that,” added Poggi. “We also have a disabled child, so it’s a little more difficult when you’re dealing with a child like that. He has down syndrome.”
Many residents were frustrated that they didn’t know when to expect their power to be cut.
“At first, they told us it was going to go out around Wednesday morning around midnight, and then they pushed it out to 6 a.m. and then, next thing I know, they pushed it out to noon,” said Emily Keegan of Moraga.
Newsom also sent a letter to California Public Utilities Commission president Marybel Batjer confirming that the CPUC, the state regulatory agency overseeing PG&E, will conduct a comprehensive review of the utility’s planning, implementation and decision-making processes for the shutoff.
Citing what he called PG&E’s “astounding neglect and lack of preparation” for the shutoff, Newsom wrote to Batjer that the review was necessary “so we can take concrete and expedited steps to both limit and focus the use” of future shutoffs.
Batjer wrote her own letter to PG&E’s Johnson on Monday, saying the CPUC identified several areas where “immediate corrective actions are required,” including accelerating the restoration of power after the fire danger has passed, and developing better protocols for disseminating information to the public.
Batjer directed PG&E to perform an “after-action review” and file it with the state agency by the end of the business day Thursday.
The CPUC will also hold an emergency meeting Friday at its San Francisco headquarters to hear from PG&E executives about the shutoff.
A spokesperson for PG&E was not immediately available to comment on the letters by the governor and the CPUC.
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