California Governor Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers must now deal with the fallout of Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s announcement it will file for bankruptcy.
That will include looking at how to keep ratepayer costs down, ensure wildfire victims get the money they’re owed and rethink California’s energy picture in the face of climate change.
PG&E said Monday it is filing for bankruptcy as it faces at least $30 billion in potential damages from lawsuits related to catastrophic California wildfires. It kicks off a 15-day window before the official filing.
Newsom sought to assure the public Monday that Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s potential bankruptcy won’t result in power shut-offs. Unlike the utility’s 2001 bankruptcy amid California’s energy crisis, the utility is now facing bankruptcy due to massive liabilities from deadly wildfires.
The Democratic governor says protecting victims of the wildfires and ratepayers is a top priority for his new administration but he hasn’t decided on any action. He says staving off the bankruptcy filing is ideal but it may not be possible.
He says PG&E has not been a “trusted player” in the past.
A California state senator says bankruptcy proceedings by PG&E would raise bills for utilities customers and could stop wildfire victims from getting all the money they’re owed.
Senator Bill Dodd, who chaired a special committee last year focusing on wildfire costs and prevention, said Monday that creditors are the priority in bankruptcy proceedings.
Dodd said lawmakers and the governor’s office are looking for ways to ensure wildfire victims are reimbursed.
One option legislators considered last year was creating some type of pooled insurance fund that could “backstop” expenses.