PG&E CEO resigns as company faces billions in liability

“The CEO of Pacific Gas and Electric resigned Sunday and employees could learn this week if the utility will declare insolvency while facing billions of dollars in liability over its role in recent California wildfires,” as the Sacramento Bee is reporting.

“PG&E released a statement Sunday thanking Geisha Williams for her service. The board of directors chose John Simon as interim CEO.

“’While we are making progress as a company in safety and other areas, the board recognizes the tremendous challenges PG&E continues to face,’ the company said. ‘We believe John is the right interim leader for the company while we work to identify a new CEO.’

“PG&E is in discussions with lenders about a financing package worth up to $5 billion. It would allow the company to continue operating during Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.

“Under a new state law, PG&E must tell its employees at least 15 days before a change of control in the company — including a bankruptcy filing, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. That notice may come as soon as Monday.

“State fire investigators blamed the utility’s power lines for causing a number of California wildfires in October 2017.”

The rest of the article is here.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

8 thoughts on “PG&E CEO resigns as company faces billions in liability”

  1. If I was a lender PG&E would be the last company I would float a loan to. Their liabilities are growing by leaps and bounds every year. I doubt even a Russian oligarch looking to launder money would consider them as a potential investment.
    My guess is they will end up as a public utility and the customers are going to end up paying utility rates that are going to be as stinging to the wallet as health insurance rates are now, and around here, homeowner policies will also be way up there. For those of us living on modest means and the other half will soon be fixed income, California is an economic death spiral.

  2. How easy would it be to create public owned utilities like SMUD to serve various localities and buy PG&E out at what could be bargain basement prices? Perhaps taking the profit motive and deferred maintenance out of the equation would increase safety. The City of Davis had a ballot initiative a few years ago to do that and it lost…mostly due to large sums of PG&E money spent to defeat it.

  3. Just an artist’s perspective, but for what it’s worth, we sure love our conveniences, but the costs are never actually calculated, until it’s too late.
    This is a quote from Watership Down which seems quite relevant to our current predicament.
    Fiver: [talking about Cowslip’s warren] You pay for it! The food, the warren… but no one must ever ask where anyone was or speak of the wires! The whole place is snared! Everywhere, every day!

  4. Before the last Golden Parachute hits the ground, the questions about the future of “power” distribution are just getting off the ground. The PUC had already started to talk about breaking up the company into different divisions, SDG&E (SEMPRA) are making noise about a buyout, and there are other big players wanting a piece of the pie.
    My dream would be that we get a real public utility out of all this. This is an opportunity. In the near future we will see the PUC make some momentous decisions, lets hope they remember their first name-

  5. In my humble opinion having been very involved energy policy for the last 15 years this is going to be super complicated. It is clear the state is going down the path of splitting PGE up into regional utilities and I think we have to do that….but the transition needs to be very carefully managed.

    What happens to PGE’s natural gas division…does it go to Sempra, already a virtual monopoly in southern California, and with its own set of problems on safety and deferred maintenance?

    What is the appropriate geography for regional utilities to ensure ratepayer equity…each regional utility will need to be built around urban hubs that can help offset the higher cost of providing service in rural regions. It is simply way cheaper to provide power at 500 people per acre than it is 5 people per acre. Where are our regional urban hubs in the new system…I hate to say it but the lower cost per customer in the Bay area right now is helping to normalize pricing for rural residents and the urban hubs in the north are not big enough to cover the cost. There will need to be some sort of rate normalization and stabilization program that covers ALL of the regionals collectively.

    What happens to remaining PGE generation assets? PGE currently generates about 6250 MW of its own power. Do they go to the regional utilities or do they get auctioned off to third party operators who sell power to the regional utilities..and remember these are usually FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) licensed as well…which means we need federal cooperation…and the current federal administration (which will hopefully disappear in the next few months) will not be friendly to public ownership model.

    What do we do about the loss of Diablo Canyon power generation which is 2200 MW of that 6250 MW…since PGE clearly cannot finance the replacement the private sector will need to step in with other entities to do so…which might be OK but we continue the process of privatizing power generation…which has its own set of problems.

    Splitting PGE up does not solve the fire risk problem…the regional POU’s would need to deal with that, and the cost could be astronomical.

    This is really super complicated and I really, really hope we take the 2-3 years to figure it out that we need to because if we move too fast and make mistakes all of the cost under the “regional publicly owned utility” model will be borne by ratepayers.

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