SACRAMENTO (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday that he wants to speed up the troubled Pacific Gas & Electric bankruptcy case so the company can be restructured in time for next year’s wildfire season.
Newsom said he is calling a meeting of wildfire victims and PG&E executives, shareholders and creditors next week to accelerate what the Democratic governor called “a consensual resolution” to the bankruptcy case.
LIVE: Governor @GavinNewsom redoubles his call for fundamental change to PG&E & lays out a path forward to ensure the overly broad application of Public Safety Power Shutoffs will never happen again. https://t.co/iAdUvtCCOK
— Office of the Governor of California (@CAgovernor) November 1, 2019
PG&E filed for bankruptcy earlier this year after a 2018 wildfire mostly destroyed the town of Paradise and killed 85 people. The utility is facing up to $30 billion in potential damages from recent fires that were started by its equipment.
Newsom announced the appointment of an Energy Czar to oversee sweeping changes to the state’s power system that could include a takeover of PG&E.
“PG&E as we know it may or may not be able to figure this out,” Newsome said. “If they cannot, we are not going to sit around and be passive.”
Newsom’s press conference was heavy on tough talk and light on specifics. He did not say when a state takeover of the utility was likely, how much it might cost or what the impact would be on customers.
The governor and leaders of communities across Northern California have been critical of PG&E for its planned power outages that plunged millions into darkness. The power shutoffs have sparked renewed interest in systems that could be used to wean homeowners, businesses and local governments off the utility.
“We can be ready when the grid goes down. We’ll be off the grid. And we’ll still be able to continue the vital functions of the city,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Licarrdo, announcing a $500,000 grant from the state to invest in backup power systems.
State lawmakers have earmarked $75 million for local governments to prepare for future power shutoffs. The plan, however, does not include any money for businesses or PG&E customers who were hurt by the outages.
“They’re doing this as a way to make sure our communities are safe. So, I think the people and especially the businesses that were highly impacted by it should be able to get reimbursed somehow,” said PG&E customer Daphna Woolfe.
© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.