California Lawmaker Pushing To Take PG&E Public Knows It Won’t Be An Easy Fight

February 13, 2020

California Lawmaker Pushing To Take PG&E Public Knows It Won’t Be An Easy Fight - (Huffington Post - Feb 12)

SAN FRANCISCO — California state Sen. Scott Wiener (D) is pushing legislation to turn Northern California’s Pacific Gas & Electric company into a publicly owned utility — but acknowledged such a bill will be hard to pass. 

At a breakfast in San Francisco hosted by Axios and sponsored by JPMorgan Chase on Wednesday, Wiener argued for the government’s takeover of the major energy company. He introduced a bill last week to make PG&E a public utility, noting in a news release that it had imposed massive blackouts in the region last year in an effort to prevent blazes and its malfunctioning equipment had caused deadly wildfires.

“When people push back and say, ‘Woah, can we do this?’ Well, PG&E is an investor-owned utility — how’s that going for people?” Wiener said Wednesday. 

The progressive state senator described PG&E as a “failed company” that was focused on its “bottom line and shareholder returns” to the detriment of “basic infrastructure maintenance.”  

“It’s not going to get better,” Wiener said, noting that there were several publicly owned power providers in the state, including in Los Angeles. “We should focus on affordability and take the profit motive out. It’s time for radical change.” 

After the event, Wiener told HuffPost that his bill will likely be a tough sell to the broader public and other legislators.

“This bill is a very, very hard bill,” Wiener said. “And I cannot say with any degree of confidence that it’s going to move forward or pass.” 

He added that the support of Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) in this effort will be key, since the governor’s “opinion matters a lot.” While Newsom has yet to say whether he’d support Wiener’s legislation, the governor has previously threatened a public takeover if the company doesn’t make changes. (Newsom’s office did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.)