World News

California lawmaker introduces bill to make PG&E a publicly owned utility

By Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) – A California lawmaker has introduced a bill aimed at making PG&E Corp <PCG.N> a publicly owned utility, a year after liabilities from wildfires traced back to some of its equipment pushed the power producer into bankruptcy.

“Today I’m introducing legislation to force PG&E to become a publicly owned utility,” California State Senator Scott Wiener said on Monday, adding it was time for a new approach at the utility company.

“PG&E has failed. It’s failed on safety & reliability. PG&E has forfeited its privilege to operate as an investor-owned monopoly in California,” he said in a tweet

The company said it opposed the bill from Wiener.

“PG&E’s facilities are not for sale,” a company spokesman told Reuters in an emailed statement.

“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,” the spokesman said.

The power producer said on Saturday it had submitted an updated reorganization plan including a new board of directors and new roles aimed at addressing concerns raised by California Governor Gavin Newsom.

Newsom last month rejected an earlier PG&E reorganization plan saying it lacked major changes in governance and tougher safety enforcement mechanisms mandated under a recent state wildfire statute.

The company filed for Chapter 11 protection in January last year, citing potential liabilities in excess of $30 billion from deadly wildfires in 2017 and 2018 linked to its equipment.

Separately, it came under renewed criticism last year for precautionary power outages to guard against the risk of wildfires posed by extremely dry and windy weather.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Christopher Cushing)