The Problem: As PG&E has demonstrated time and again, private ownership of the power grid is fatal for California’s residents. After PG&E’s negligence caused the Camp Fire, which killed 85 people and was the most expensive natural disaster in the world in 2018, PG&E was forced into bankruptcy. But that process resulted only in superficial changes and a utility that continues to prioritize profits and Wall Street investors.
The Solution: Converting PG&E into a publicly owned utility will focus the company away from profits and Wall Street and toward public safety, reliability, and affordability of rates. Publicly owned utilities have a strong track record of operating in the public interest. CA Senator Wiener’s legislation requires the State Power Authority, led by gubernatorial appointees, to initiate the purchase of all of PG&E’s shares. Once PG&E has been acquired, ownership will transition to a publicly owned utility, the Northern California Energy Utility District. Under the District will be a public benefit corporation called Northern California Energy Services, which will operate the utility on a day-to-day basis.
Cities are currently able to create municipal utility districts, and this legislation will not take away that ability. San Francisco, which has expressed interest in creating its own local utility, will be free to continue on its path toward municipalization, along with any other cities. Additionally, under this legislation, local governments and federally recognized Native American tribes can, around the time of the transition, acquire PG&E assets in order to form locally owned public utilities. This legislation will also fully protect PG&E’s workers. PG&E’s entire workforce will be transitioned to the new entity, and their collective bargaining agreements, wages, benefits, and retirement benefits will remain intact.