Business · Highlight

Taxpayers buying out PG&E? Some Valley mayors aren’t ruling it out.

California’s Public Utilities Commission is facing a new push to consider an alternative to Pacific Gas & Electric’s bankruptcy emergence plan that includes California municipalities buying out the woe-begotten privately-held utility.

The effort, crafted and led by San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, called for the state’s energy regulator to consider allowing ratepayers across the utility’s service area buyout the company to create a publicly-owned co-operative energy provider.

The letter gained a groundswell of support from Bay Area and northern California Mayors and individual County Supervisors when it was initially signed on Monday and sent to the CPUC and Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The move comes as PG&E faces a public relations and logistical battle over its public safety power shutoffs that left hundreds of thousands of Californians without power for multiple days over the past month.

Meanwhile, it is still working to emerge from bankruptcy proceedings driven by its multi-billion-dollar liability tied to the 2018 Camp Fire.

In a statement, the company said

“We are aware of proposals by various government agencies to acquire PG&E assets or to convert parts of the company to what is being described as a mutualized entity,” PG&E said via statement. “We study and analyze each proposal. However, PG&E’s facilities are not for sale, and changing the structure of the company would not create a safer operation.”

Prior to Tuesday, the lone Central Valley mayors to endorse Liccardo’s push were Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs.

On Tuesday, they added another supporter: Clovis Mayor Drew Bessinger.

“I support exploring the concept of changing the status quo,” Bessinger said in a Facebook post on Tuesday. “The Public Utility Commission needs to be open to other possible alternatives to corporate-run utilities where the consumer has no choice and no voice.”

“To be clear, I would not support a government run utility,” he added. “[We] have had enough difficulty with State programs locally, and my faith in Sacramento is tested almost weekly.”

Bessinger told the television station he would be signing on to Liccardo’s letter as an individual, not on behalf of the City of Clovis.

Meanwhile, Fresno Mayor Lee Brand has not signed on to the letter. A spokesman for Brand said that, following conversations with Liccardo, there was still a need to fully vet the concept and its impact on the City of Fresno as a whole.

“We still have to do our due diligence on a proposal like this,” City spokesman Mark Standriff told to The Sun on Tuesday.

Alex Tavlian
Alex Tavlian is the Executive Editor of The San Joaquin Valley Sun and Executive Director of Valley Future Foundation. You can reach Alex at alex.tavlian@sjvsun.com.