California utility hit over power outages

California utility hit over power outages
© Getty

California Governor Gavin NewsomGavin Christopher NewsomThe Hill's Morning Report - Wild Wednesday: Sondland testimony, Dem debate take center stage California to stop buying from automakers that backed Trump in emissions battle California governor sets special election to replace Katie Hill MORE (D) and a California utility regulator knocked Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) for its execution of the largest power outage in state history.

In a letter sent Monday, Newsom called on PG&E to pay customers for their "inadequate preparation and failed execution" in the planned outage, which was intended to avoid triggering a wildfire.


"I am profoundly disappointed in PG&E's decisions and neglect over the course of many years, which led to this extreme power shutoff event," he wrote.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) president outlined in a letter corrective actions for the electric company to take, including getting the power back in 12 hours, as opposed to PG&E's current goal of 48 hours.

“The scope, scale, complexity, and overall impact to people’s lives, businesses, and the economy of this action cannot be understated,” CPUC President Marybel Batjer said in the letter. 

Batjer added that the outage "created an unacceptable situation that should never be repeated." Her other requests called for the company to put more effort into avoiding large outages, find better communication methods with public and local officials, develop an improved system to show outage maps, and work with emergency officials to make sure its employees are well-trained.

The president further said the company did not follow recommendations state officials gave to PG&E after it was allowed to conduct outages last year, The Associated Press reported.

PG&E announced it could shut off power to much of the state to avoid power lines from triggering wildfires last week during strong winds. Two days later, the outage began, leading 2 million people to be without power. 

PG&E CEO Bill JohnsonWilliam (Bill) Leslie JohnsonCalifornia prepares for biggest blackout yet Largest California utility reports broken power line near wildfire origin Rolling blackouts sweep through Northern California, could hit southern part of state MORE said at a press conference last week the company was "not adequately prepared," the AP reported.

Johnson said in a response to the CPUC letter and Newsom's letter that no wildfires began and that he utility company worked with local and state officials during the outage. The statement maintained the decision was made to "keep customers and communities safe."

"We know there are areas where we fell short of our commitment to serving our customers during this unprecedented event, both in our operations and in our customer communications, and we look forward to learning from these agencies how we can improve," the statement said.