Gov. Newsom Bails Out Negligent PG&E At The Expense of Rate-Payers and Fire Victims

Last week, a $26 billion utility bailout bill, AB1054, passed through the Assembly and Senate with the help of Governor Newsom. AB1054 was a gut-and-amend bill, meaning the legislators took an unrelated bill and replaced the contents. AB1054 was also made an urgency bill, which allowed the normal committee process to be waived.

Several factors contributed to the “urgency” of AB1054. Wall Street ratings agencies (Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s) threatened to downgrade SDG&E (San Diego Gas and Electric) to junk bond status. Additionally, the convicted corporate felon PG&E filed for bankruptcy in January 2019 after the utility only got partially bailed out last year. This newly “urgent” bill was pushed for over the July 4th weekend when the Governor knew the bill would fly under the radar.

The bill would set up a $21 billion wildfire recovery fund for victims of future fires. (It would not apply to last year’s catastrophic Camp and Woolsey fires.) The fund would be paid into equally by ratepayers (by extending the $2.50 monthly charge on their bills that was levied during the last energy crisis) and by shareholders of investor-owned utilities. Under the plan, utility companies would need to pay $5 billion in order to access a fund of up to $21 billion. The recovery fund is a bond that would be repaid by ratepayers (me & you) with interest.

Our San Francisco representatives (Scott Wiener, Phil Ting, & David Chiu) voted no for AB1054—but only because an amendment to the bill would not allow the City to buy parts of the utility, rather than fight for the fire victims who lost their houses due to PG&E’s corporate negligence, or to maintain the principle of no more bailouts for PG&E, a convicted corporate felon that has been responsible for massive wildfires and the destruction of people’s homes.

We want our San Francisco representatives to fight for the fire victims and ratepayers instead of bailing out the negligent corporations responsible for last year’s fires. We are appalled that our Governor would rush such an important bill as AB1054 over a holiday weekend. We are watching, and we will remember the actions of the Governor and state legislature regarding this bill.

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