Erin Brockovich rips PG&E’s bankruptcy filing, hopes for reforms under new governor

Environmental activist Erin Brockovich ripped into PG&E Corp after the electric and natural gas utility giant filed for bankruptcy protection following the California wildfires.

“I’ve seen their go-to before, which is file bankruptcy, they don’t like to take responsibility,” Brockovich told Hill.TV’s Krystal Ball Thursday during an interview on “Rising.”

“They don’t follow through on their safety, they’re very antiquated, they don’t reinvest the money they make into better safety practices and new equipment throughout the entire company,” she continued.

PG&E filed for bankruptcy this week, seeking to reorganize its debt as it faces multiple lawsuits over its alleged liability in a series of deadly wildfires during 2017 and 2018. 

Brockovich said that the California-based utility giant has repeatedly filed for bankruptcy in order to protect itself.

“They look at judges and the law and whoever is going to come into that bankruptcy to help them figure out how they’re going to get out of their mess,” Brockovich said.

But the activist is hopeful that new leadership within the state will hold the company more accountable.

“We have new leadership with Governor Newsom, new leadership coming into the PUC [California Public Utilities Commission] and really take their responsibility seriously about how we’re going to stop this runaway freight train of company called PG&E,” she said.

In a response to The Hill, PG&E said that it was "determined" to work for the "safe delivery" of natural gas and electric service, while expressing sympathy to families impacted by the wildfires.

"The families impacted by the wildfires of 2017 and 2018 are our customers, our neighbors and our friends and our hearts go out to those who have lost so much. We remain focused on supporting them through the recovery and rebuilding process," PG&E said.

"To be clear, we have heard the calls for change and we are determined to take action to build the energy system our customers want and deserve," it added.

"As our Board announced in its Jan. 4 news release, we intend to continue working constructively with the CPUC, policymakers and other key stakeholders to consider a range of alternatives to provide for the safe delivery of natural gas and electric service for the long-term in an environment that continues to be challenged by climate change," it added, referring to California Public Utilities Commission.

Brockovich, who is involved with some of the ongoing wildfire lawsuits against PG&E, maintained that those cases will continue to go forward "even in bankruptcy."

She insisted that the victims of the California wildfires deserve some justice, calling their situation “beyond heartbreaking.”

“The first few times I was there, it was difficult to speak with anyone without crying,” Brockovich told Hill.TV.

This isn’t the first time Brockovich has taken on PG&E.

Brockovich took PG&E to task more than 25 years ago in a case that alleged that the company contaminated drinking water in Hinkley, California.

The company later settled for $333 million dollars, and the story was turned into a 2000 movie starring Julia Roberts, who later earned an Academy Award for her role playing Brockovich.

—Tess Bonn