California Governor Calls for Refunds From PG&E After Blackouts -- Update

Date : 10/15/2019 @ 12:54AM
Source : Dow Jones News
Stock : Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PCG)
Quote : 6.26  0.0 (0.00%) @ 12:00AM

California Governor Calls for Refunds From PG&E After Blackouts -- Update

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By Jim Carlton 

California state officials on Monday lambasted PG&E Corp.'s handling of last week's planned power shutdown, with a regulator ordering corrective action and the governor calling for rebates to customers.

At issue were numerous problems the utility encountered in blacking out power to about two million people in an attempt to avert potential wildfires, including a crash of its information website and waits for restored service that for some customers took days.

The California Public Utilities Commission directed PG&E on Monday to accelerate the restoration of power after future planned outages with a goal of less than 12 hours, similar to what is required after major storms, and to beef up call centers and its website to make sure they can handle high traffic.

"Failures in execution, combined with the magnitude of this...event, created an unacceptable situation that should never be repeated," Marybel Batjer, president of the utilities commission, said in a letter Monday to PG&E Chief Executive Bill Johnson.

In addition, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday called for PG&E to issue refunds to consumers and small businesses. Many across Northern California who lost power for up to several days last week complained of financial losses, with some businesses saying they totaled tens of thousands of dollars.

In letters to the company and the utilities commission, the governor asked Mr. Johnson to provide those affected with an automatic credit or rebate of $100 per residential customer and $250 per small business. The Democrat said the rebates should be funded by shareholders of the bankrupt company, not ratepayers.

"We appreciate the significant impact that turning off power for safety has on our customers and the state," Mr. Johnson said in a statement. "While we recognize this was a hardship for millions of people throughout Northern and Central California, we made that decision to keep customers and communities safe. That was the right decision."

Regulations don't require PG&E to cover losses from intentional blackouts, and the company has previously said it generally won't do so, though it would consider claims case by case.

Mr. Johnson acknowledged in a press conference last week that his company was "not adequately prepared" for the shutdown.

In her letter, Ms. Batjer directed the company to perform an "after-action" review and file with her commission its response by the close of business Thursday. She said the commission would hold an emergency meeting on Friday to hear from top PG&E executives on which steps will be taken to ensure the same mistakes aren't repeated in future planned shutdowns.

Katherine Blunt contributed to this article.

Write to Jim Carlton at jim.carlton@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 14, 2019 20:39 ET (00:39 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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