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Gov. Gavin Newsom calls for PG&E to repay customers affected by power shutoff

Utility company's CEO open to hearing feedback on needed improvements from agencies

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. A few Palo Hills residents served by the utility company were among the affected, according to the city of Palo Alto.

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.

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. That meeting will be available online at adminmonitor.com/ca/cpuc.

"First and most important, during the Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS), there were no catastrophic wildfires started," Johnson said in a statement Monday afternoon.

The shutoff was conducted in accordance with a Wildfire Mitigation Plan that was approved by the CPUC, according to Johnson, and utility personnel worked closely with officials from Cal Fire, the Governor's Office of Emergency Services and the CPUC both before and during the event.

"We know there are areas where we fell short of our commitment to serving our customers during this unprecedented event, both in our operations and in our customer communications, and we look forward to learning from these agencies how we can improve," Johnson said.

"While we recognize this was a hardship for millions of people throughout Northern and Central California, we made that decision to keep customers and communities safe," Johnson said. "That was the right decision."

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Comments

8 people like this
Posted by Outwiththegeanie
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 16, 2019 at 1:34 pm

Rate payers and all of us were being held hostage by a for profit energy company. Their executive action to shut down the grid was beyond comprehension. If Pacific Gas and Electric company’s grid is so decrepit and in disrepair N. Calif would have burned up 10 years ago. This Co. should have been forced to break up in the early 2000’s Enron debacle. The CPUC is as much to blame. The Genie in the PGEenie is out after its vessel was rubbed too many times by its own financial hand! What’s more. A massively top earning, heavy company like this relies solely on our public agencies to put out the fires they have stoked and ignited. Who pays for that?


1 person likes this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2019 at 11:44 am

Posted by Outwiththegeanie, a resident of Palo Alto Hills

>> Their executive action to shut down the grid was beyond comprehension.

Could it possibly be that they didn't want another costly fire, like Paradise, like the ongoing Saddleridge fire that SoCalEdison lines may have started? Web Link

>> If Pacific Gas and Electric company’s grid is so decrepit and in disrepair N. Calif would have burned up 10 years ago.

Been away long? The Sonoma County Fires, which endangered -literally- at least 8 people that I know personally, ring a bell? Web Link
Ever heard of Paradise? Web Link

>> The CPUC is as much to blame.

I agree. CPUC should have re-written the rules to strongly incentivize safety right after San Bruno.

>> A massively top earning, heavy company like this relies solely on our public agencies to put out the fires they have stoked and ignited. Who pays for that?

Everybody in the State, obviously. Given the bankruptcy, I think the State needs to step in and take over PG&E. There is NO WAY for the public to avoid paying for this directly and indirectly. The beauty of corporations is that there is no way to get back the ignorantly paid earnings and dividends and investment purchases. Rates will have to go up, we will continue to pay for fire suppression, everybody will have to pay for right-of-way maintenance one way or the other. It sucks, but, Milton Friedman and Alan Greenspan were wrong-- there are just some things that "the markets" do badly.


3 people like this
Posted by Outwiththegeenie
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 17, 2019 at 12:53 pm

To Anon. I was raised in Sonoma County. It is a poorly designed rural to urban landscape since WWIi. The once native grass fed land was gauged out by corrupt developers and amateur millionaire vintners . In the fall of 2017, For three days my nephew was packed and ready to evacuate in Healdsburgh (10 miles from Tubbs lane). Santa Rosa’s Journey’s End mobile home park was a tragic/ironic bi-product of all of it. I was there when the PGeenie rolling black outs of the early 2000’s were taking place. I even had a family member work for them in the 1990’s and left the Co. just prior to 2000 for their sneaky ways and backroom deals.

I then moved to Chico. Every friend I knew in Paradise lost something, someone and everything. My 95 year-old mother had to prepare to vacate her Chico home 2 miles from the fire line. A couple I am close who lived in Paradise for 45 years and in their early nineties escaped with just a few boxes. They lost all and will never return to their home town. I am more than close to both fires.

I will not excuse this for profit company and the corners they’ve cut over into the next Century during the last40 years. instead of hiring unionized man power they usurped the people’s power grid. FYI This Co. was once two. Electric was one and gas was another. Once they melded gas became the cruddy poor step brother to the electric side. Tragically, They are responsible for so much loss of life and shelter for vast amounts of humans in Calif. They also hold vast amount of California land outside their “grid” zone. Yet they’ve gotten away with one thing only: Their bottom dollar. I say share the gride. Give the power to the people of N. CalifShut them down!!! Too bad this is real life and not another summer Hollywood blockbuster.


1 person likes this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2019 at 1:36 pm

Posted by Outwiththegeenie, a resident of Palo Alto Hills

>> I will not excuse this for profit company and the corners they’ve cut over into the next Century during the last40 years.

I don't excuse them either. But, I think the powerdown made sense under the circumstances.

>> Too bad this is real life and not another summer Hollywood blockbuster.

Ever seen this movie? Web Link . -Everybody loses-


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