PG&E’s Latest Court Filing Makes Attempts To Placate Newsom
San Francisco, CA – In a move designed to placate state officials who are not on board with its bankruptcy overhaul plan, the nation’s largest utility is promising to “refresh” its board of directors.
In its latest court filing Pacific Gas and Electric is clearly attempting to address Governor Gavin Newsom’s recently reiterated scathing directions to make a from the top-down transformative change to its entire company, culture, and approach to customer service, beginning with replacing its entire 14-member board and CEO Bill Johnson.
Newsom is also insisting that the utility lessen its debt load so it can afford to invest $40 to $50 billion in bringing its aging infrastructure up to date. Johnson has been roundly criticized over the past months for insisting PG&E’s Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) events were in customers’ best interests despite leaving millions in the dark for several days last fall during forecasted high-wildfire risk conditions.
The plan filed Friday stated the company was “rapidly evolving,” and that “the company that emerges from bankruptcy will be a changed company with an enhanced focus on safety, improvement, customer welfare, and operational excellence.“However, it did not indicate it would dismiss the entire PG&E board of directors of which all but two have been in place less than a year.
However, in recruiting new board members, PG&E affirmed in a nod to Newsom’s direction that it would seek to comprise it of mostly California residents. It also described using a “skills matrix” in its vetting of candidates to ensure the board would focus on an understanding of safety, climate change, renewable energy, technology, finances, and community leadership.
The plan also maintains a significant debt load, explaining that it anticipated long-term savings through refinancing and additional plans to shift more debt from the holding company to its utility-operating subsidiary.
Newsom’s office has not yet officially responded to PG&E’s latest blueprint and bondholders’ agreement to withdraw their alternative way out of bankruptcy. He and the chief regulator must give their stamps of approval to the final plan, which is due by June 30 to qualify for coverage from the state’s a wildfire insurance fund that legislators set up last summer. The fund is essential to the plan PG&E drew up in the face of loss claims for its part in deadly 2017 and 2018 wildfires. Totaling billions of dollars, the mounting lawsuits triggered the company’s 2019 bankruptcy filing.