Wednesday, June 12, 2019, San Francisco–TURN today said that a Wall Street- backed proposal to lower safety standards for PG&E would heighten the risks consumers face from the utility, already responsible for close to 100 deaths and widespread destruction throughout northern California. Despite PG&E’s criminal convictions for negligence and lying to authorities, the SB 901 Wildfire Commission has proposed replacing the “prudent manager” standard that requires PG&E to prove it operated its system safely with a “get out of jail free” standard where corporate liability is determined by how much shareholders are willing to pay, rather than PG&E’s practices.

“The prospect of PG&E being held to even lower standards is terrifying for consumers,” said TURN executive director Mark Toney.  “There’s overwhelming evidence that PG&E has repeatedly flouted safety standards, deferred needed maintenance and neglected tree-trimming and other responsibilities that customers pay the company to complete effectively.  The legislature should be looking for additional ways to hold PG&E accountable, not bending over backwards to give its wealthy shareholders and overpaid executives a free pass.”

In a letter to the Commission today, TURN said that “we are convinced that reducing the standards for prudent utility conduct will undermine utility motivation to reduce wildfires.  Raising expectations for utility performance in preventing wildfires is the only sure strategy to reduce the threat posed by unpredictable wildfire liability.”

The letter also noted that PG&E investors, primarily hedge funds, as well as the major rating agencies, have been lobbying hard for decreased standards in order to protect their profits, rather than protecting the people of California.  “The legislature is supposed to represent us, not Wall Street,” said Toney.  “The demands for guaranteed profits would be outrageous in any case, but especially when people are losing their homes and their very lives.  Shareholders have made it quite clear that they are not motivated to stop PG&E’s pattern of criminal negligence or to hold  management accountable.”

Full letter here:

TURN Comments-Wildfire Cms Report