SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – A $166 million penalty against PG&E is being sought by advocates for ratepayers for failures related to three 2019 Public Safety Power Shutoffs.

CalAdvocates revealed Tuesday that PG&E failed to appropriately tell nearly 400,000 customers of the shutoffs, including 15,000 customers who require power for medical reasons, and that PG&E is not acknowledging that number.

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PG&E said in a brief filed with the CPUC that the evidence does not indicate PG&E violated any law and so the company should not be penalized. CalAdvocates is alleging that PG&E in its brief is using a 60,000 figure, which represents the number who received little to no notice.

“It’s about transparency and accountability,” Nathaniel Skinner, program manager for CalAdvocates safety branch, said.

He said CalAdvocates recognizes that utilities need to shut off power, and other utilities are doing it, but “PG&E has done a really bad job of doing it.”

“They’re not being transparent,” Skinner said.

He said a hospital lost power unexpectedly. Critical facilities are supposed to get 48 hours of notice.

Some individuals at home with medical conditions rely on power and for them, losing power “could kill them,” Skinner said.

PG&E spokeswoman Kristi Jourdan said, “We know that losing power significantly disrupts people’s lives, especially for those with medical needs and customers sheltering-at-home in response to COVID-19.

“This year, we are working to improve these events and are focused on reducing the program’s impact on our customers, without compromising safety. This year, PSPS events have been about half the size compared to 2019,” she said.

CalAdvocates said the $166 million sanction is not for the 400,000 who allegedly did not get the minimum advanced notice of 24 hours but only for the 60,000 customers who allegedly got little to no notice.

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“For PG&E to change a safety culture that has consistently put the public at risk for over a decade, it must accept responsibility for its failures,” said Maya Chupkov, spokeswoman for CalAdvocates.

“The CPUC must do its duty to hold PG&E accountable through this OSC (Order to Show Cause) and impose penalties for PG&E’s violations that risked public health and safety,” she said.

CPUC commissioners will take CalAdvocates demands under consideration.

“Ten parties filed briefs on this matter and the CPUC will consider CalAdvocates’ arguments along with those of the other parties to make a determination in the matter,” CPUC spokeswoman Terrie Prosper said.

Jourdan admitted last year was challenging.

“We recognize certain challenges regarding our customer notifications and website accessibility” related to the October 2019 power shutoffs, she said.

“We have made substantial improvements in those areas as well as in support for customers-including those with medical or independent living needs-and planning and working with local governments,” she said.

“Additionally, we also provided residential and business customers impacted by the Oct. 9, 2019 PSPS event with approximately $86 million in bill credits funded by our shareholders to compensate them for any inconvenience associated with that event,” Jourdan said.

CalAdvocates wants to divvy up the fine if it’s imposed. They want to see critical facilities get batteries for backup power, medical baseline customers get a credit so they can buy batteries, and each of the people who received little to no notice get a $400 credit.

The state of California would receive $16 million for the general fund, Skinner said.

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