State Sen. Scott Wiener introduced legislation Monday to turn the bankrupt Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. into a publicly-owned utility company.

Wiener announced the proposal Monday morning in front of the California State Building with several San Francisco supervisors who lent their support for reforming the troubled energy company.

Wiener said:

“What we can’t have is a PG&E that comes out of bankruptcy with business as usual. That just doesn’t work.”

Jerold Chinn/SFBay State Sen. Scott Wiener introduces legislation to turn PG&E into a publicly-owned utility company at a press conference in San Francisco, Calif., on Monday, February 3, 2020.

Under Wiener’s legislation, the State Power Authority, led by governor appointees, would begin the purchase of all of PG&E’s shares. Ownership would then transition to a publicly-owned utility called the Northern California Energy Utility District.

Wiener said the plan to take control over PG&E is long overdue and he criticized the utility company’s handling of wildfires and power blackouts.

Wiener said:

“It will put an end to the dangerous roller coaster ride that we have been on with PG&E over the past decade.”

The proposal is supported by San Francisco Mayor London Breed along with Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee and supervisors Aaron Peskin and Rafael Mandelman. Yee said the board plans to introduce a resolution in support of Wiener’s proposal.

Criticizing the company’s prioritization of profit over customer safety,  former California Public Utilities Commissioner Loretta Lynch said:

“For far too long, PG&E has operated as a rouge corporation placing profits over safety. Profits over service. Profits over its customers and profits over its workers.”

PG&E employees protested the proposal Monday. Members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245 booed and chanted “lies” as Wiener spoke. Some held signs that read:

“Don’t touch my pension.”

Phuong Tran, who works for PG&E as an organizing steward for IBEW, told reporters that employees are worried.

Tran said:

“IBEW members here are trying to protect our pensions here because if the state takes over and San Francisco takes over, our pensions are not guaranteed. There are folks out here with 35, 40 years with PG&E.”

Jerold Chinn/SFBay Phuong Tran, a PG&E employee and organizing steward for IBEW Local 1245, speaks to the media in San Francisco, Calif., on Monday, Feb. 3, 2020, about the union’s opposition on state Sen. Scott Wiener’s proposal to turn PG&E into a publicly-owned utility company.

A PG&E spokesperson issued a statement that said:

“We oppose Senator Weiner’s proposed framework, and PG&E’s facilities are not for sale. Additionally, changing the structure of the company would not create a safer or cleaner operation. Recent takeover attempts have largely failed due to a range of factors.”

On Friday, PG&E submitted to the CPUC plans to move out of bankruptcy restructure the company with a focus on independent safety oversight.

The company said it has plans to pay more than $25 billion in claims to wildfire victims.

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay. A San Francisco native, he has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Send tips to jerold@sfbay.ca or at Twitter @Jerold_Chinn.

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