With More Blackout Threats to California, Levine Details Role of Proposed Public Administrator for PG&E

Monday, November 18, 2019

(SACRAMENTO, CA) – With California families facing the threat of a third Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) in less than two months, Assemblymember Marc Levine (D – Marin County) today released details of his legislation to authorize the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to temporarily appoint a public administrator to oversee the public safety operations of PG&E or any investor owned electric utility. Levine will introduce the legislation when the legislature reconvenes in January 2020.

During the week of October 7 and the week of October 27, PG&E initiated a series of PSPS, forcing blackouts on over 2 million Californians, preventing 130,000 students from attending school and causing economic losses estimated in the billions. PG&E’s CEO William Johnson speculated that these blackout events could occur for another decade.

Under Levine’s proposal, the CPUC would develop a ‘public safety stress test’, which would conduct an independent analysis of the electrical utility’s financial health, the reliability of the utility’s infrastructure and its safety record. The public administrator would be embedded and authorized to work with electrical utility’s leadership and make decisions necessary to restore critical infrastructure, ensure that proper safety protocols are followed and increase public confidence in the utility. Once the CPUC is able to determine that electrical utility has complied with these financial, infrastructure and safety requirements, full management responsibilities would be returned to the electrical utility.

The public administrator would have oversight authority of an electrical utility’s activities that directly impact public safety, including decisions to de-energize all or part of its distribution or transmission system to reduce the risk of a wildfire. That authority includes the option, after appropriate due diligence, of modifying a PG&E decision regarding the specific scope of a de-energization event.

The appointment of the public administrator would not exceed 180 days but the CPUC could extend that appointment beyond 180 days if it makes further findings supporting the continued need for embedded oversight.

“We cannot afford to wait for PG&E to do the right thing,” said Assemblymember Levine. “PG&E has proven themselves incapable of prioritizing public safety over corporate profits. PG&E’s poor judgement continues to harm California residents and our state’s economy, which is more and more dependent upon a clean, safe and reliable supply of electricity. My proposal to create a public administrator for PG&E or any investor owned electrical utility will help all utilities refocus their priorities on safety and increase needed public confidence in essential electrical utility services. California’s economy cannot afford to spend another decade in the dark. We must act now.”

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