Senator Wiener’s Bill Holding PG&E Accountable for Power Blackouts Passes Senate Floor Vote

SB 378 passed out of the Senate with a vote of 25-2-12
January 28, 2020

Sacramento – Today Senator Scott Wiener’s (D-San Francisco) legislation to hold PG&E accountable for mass blackouts and their impacts passed out of the Senate with a floor vote of 25-2-12. It will now head to the Assembly where it will likely be heard in June or July of 2020.

Senate Bill 378 will hold PG&E and other utilities responsible for the damage of the mass power blackouts it levied on the state last fall, in part by requiring PG&E to compensate those impacted by the blackouts. PG&E’s equipment has been the cause of past wildfires – rather than focusing on fixing this equipment, PG&E planned widespread blackouts to limit its liability and protect its financial interests. Despite claiming that they would take a “surgical” approach to the blackouts, PG&E power shut-offs were ultimately so widespread that they wreaked havoc on communities all over the state. Lifesaving medical equipment such as respirators and refrigerated medication was rendered useless, and food stamp recipients went hungry as food spoiled without refrigeration. Additionally, many small businesses, due to the high costs of lost productivity, were pushed to consider moving out of California.

SB 378 is part of a larger package of legislation that Sen. Wiener is introducing to hold PG&E and other utilities accountable for the consequences of their behavior. He plans to introduce a bill later this legislative session to turn PG&E into a public utility.

In addition to requiring compensation for victims of the blackouts, SB 378 also mandates better data collection on utility equipment risks and create clear, consistent standards for reporting about the impacts of planned blackouts. It will also help limit blackouts to only those that are absolutely necessary, by leveling hourly fees on utilities for not providing power. The bill also ensures that customers cannot be billed during planned blackouts, and prevents utilities using ratepayer funds to oppose new energy choices.

“I am thrilled that SB 378 passed out of the Senate. If it becomes a law, SB 378 will begin the process of holding PG&E accountable for the harm it has caused the people of California during the blackouts last fall. PG&E has abused its power for far too long, and instead of fixing its faulty equipment – which led to the deadliest wildfire in California history – it leveled massive power shut-offs all over the state to avoid liability. While I understand that blackouts are a necessary tool in wildfire prevention, they should be implemented with a scalpel, not a sledgehammer.

I will soon be introducing a bill to turn PG&E into a public utility. I am serious about reforming our utilities in California and see the progress we’ve made with SB 378 as a strong start,” said Senator Wiener.

Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) is a principal co-author of SB 378, and Senator Scott Wilk (D- Santa Clarita) is a co-author. Assemblymembers David Chiu (D- San Francisco), Jordan Cunningham (R- San Luis Obispo), Susan Eggman (D- Stockton), Tom Lackey (R- Palmdale), Marc Levine (D- Santa Rosa), and Mark Stone (D- Santa Cruz) are co-authors of the bill, demonstrating bipartisan support for this legislation.

Click here for the full text of the bill.