The California Public Utilities Commission unanimously approved Monday a plan to let Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. take out $6 billion in loans as it marches toward bankruptcy. The decision did not sit well with dozens of protesters and ratepayers, who said this is salt in the wound of fire victims.
PG&E had already lined up billions in investment. Monday’s decision means the company is now free to access that money.
But the emergency meeting, which was held under protest, creates another layer of companies who will need to get paid before fire victims see a dime.
Commissioners faced harsh criticism for hastily announcing the emergency meeting. California law generally requires multiple days of notice for public meetings. The CPUC cited an exception for emergency situations that affect public health or safety in order to hold Monday’s meeting.
California utility regulators are facing criticism for a hastily announced meeting.
“How can you shoehorn this at the last minute without letting us know?” said Matt Jones, who attended the emergency meeting. “This if for the people!”
Mindy Spatt, a spokeswoman for The Utility Reform Network, said PG&E’s financing did not qualify as an emergency.
Christopher Chow, a spokesman for the CPUC, said it had met its noticing requirements for the meeting.
After a Cal Fire report last week cleared PG&E of responsibility for starting the Tubbs Fire in 2017 — the most destructive wildfire ever until last year’s Camp Fire — reform advocates want to push pause on the utility’s whole bankruptcy process.
“This is not an emergency!” Spatt said at the meeting. “It’s manufactured, and this company can keep providing electricity to customers.”
In addition, San Francisco city leaders are also lending their leverage.
San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin said more money for irresponsible behavior will not continue.
“And we are going to pass a resolution (Tuesday) that tells the CPUC no more SB 901s, no more offloading the cost of wildfires on to customers,” Peskin said.
Peskin said if need be, he will take this a step further and ensure that a ballot measure in 2020 restricts CPUC’s power if they do not get this right.
The CPUC said the money is the only way to keep safe and reliable power flowing, and that it does not include a rate hike,” Peskin said.
PG&E provided the following statement Monday:
The families impacted by the Camp Fire are our customers, our neighbors and our friends and our hearts go out to those who have lost so much. We remain focused on supporting them through the recovery and rebuilding process. We understand and recognize the serious concerns raised by customers and wildfire victims and we acknowledge that while we have made progress, we have more work to do.
We’re open to a range of solutions that will help make the energy system safer. The DIP financing provides the funds needed to continue operating our business and to continue investing in our systems, infrastructure and wildfire mitigation initiatives throughout the Chapter 11 process. That process also supports the orderly, fair and expeditious resolution of its liabilities resulting from the 2017 and 2018 wildfires.
PG&E is committed to working cooperatively with regulators, policymakers, and other stakeholders to continue to provide PG&E customers the safe gas and electric services they expect and need.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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