California

State regulators recommend $166mil fine to PG&E for blackouts

Pacific Gas & Electric is facing potential fines for cutting power last year without informing customers. 

The Public Advocate’s Office – an independent organization within the California Public Utilities Commission – submitted a brief to the CPUC recommending that PG&E is fined $166 million for the outages. 

PG&E did not inform its customers of two blackouts in October 2019 which affected 1.67 million customers. Assuming each customer account serves two or three people, it is estimated that over 4 million people were affected. 

The Public Advocates Office argued that these outages were “a major public safety failure,” and many people with medical needs – especially those who use electrical equipment like wheelchairs, iron lungs and dialysis machines – were at risk. 

These outages came in an effort to prevent power lines from falling over in high-winds and causing wildfires, such as the PG&E-caused fires in 2017 and 2018 that killed over 100 people and destroyed more than 27,000 structures. 

Even though the utility shut off the power to prevent a possible wildfire breakout, the Public Advocate’s Office argued that the utility “put the lives of many vulnerable customers at risk, and either failed in or disregarded its obligations to public safety partners, local agencies, and essential service workers.” 

The office presented three fines to the CPUC for consideration: $87.5 million, $165.7 million and $277.5 million, recommending that the middle fine is levied. 

Daniel Gligich
Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.