Having paid to shareholders money it was supposed to use on wildfire remediation and prevention, PG&E now says it can’t get the work done unless it raises rates. Last week the California Public Utilities Commission approved the first of several upcoming requests by PG&E to raise customer utility rates to recover some of the costs relating to the fires.
The federal judge overseeing PG&E’s probation for the deadly gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno in 2010 has added new requirements for the utility company. In order to prevent more fatal wildfires, the judge is requiring PG&E to follow all California state laws regarding tree trimming around utility lines and to follow the company’s own existing plan for tree trimming, which includes hiring enough staff to implement the plan. PG&E must also suspend shareholder dividends until the tree trimming requirement is met. And PG&E is now required to consent to be monitored with unannounced inspections.
Scott Deveau and Mark Chediak of Bloomberg report that PG&E is likely to sign Bill Johnson as its new CEO. Bill Johnson was most recently CEO of the Tennessee Valley Authority, the large southeastern public utility. Critics are glad Johnson is now gone from the TVA because, they say, he consistently favored corporate interests over the public interest. They see Johnson’s departure as an opportunity to replace him with someone who will put the “public” back “public utility.
In connection with PG&E’s probation for the deadly San Bruno explosion in 2010, more terms were added to the company’s probation after PG&E was blamed for lethal Northern California wildfires. PG&E pushed back on the new terms and asked that they be modified.