SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday that Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. plans to remake its board of directors with hedge fund financiers and people who have little experience in utility operations and safety, and he urged the utility’s leader to change course.
“With this move, PG&E would send a clear message that it is prioritizing quick profits for Wall Street over public safety and reliable and affordable energy service,” Newsom, a Democrat, said in a public letter to John Simon, the utility’s interim chief executive.
The San Francisco-based utility is in the midst of Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings after it said it could not afford billions of dollars in liability related to deadly California wildfires in 2017 and 2018. It had previously announced plans to replace most of its board by its annual shareholder meeting in May.
But the company has not announced its slate of candidates for the new board. Newsom’s office was briefed by PG&E executives on their proposed slate in recent days, said spokesman Nathan Click. The governor’s office is not releasing the names either.
Utility spokeswoman Lynsey Paolo did not immediately comment.
PG&E, the nation’s largest utility, has faced intense scrutiny over its equipment’s role in starting deadly blazes across California. A federal judge is overseeing a separate criminal conviction PG&E received for its role in a 2010 gas line explosion that killed eight people.
Newsom said PG&E should remake its board with a majority of Californians with backgrounds as regulators, safety experts and in clean energy.
“Any new board member should be resolved to change the culture of the company, understand the concerns of ratepayers and demonstrate a commitment to the fair treatment of wildfire victims and employees,” his letter said.
Blue Mountain Capital, a PG&E shareholder that has criticized the bankruptcy declaration, has put forward its own slate of 13 new board members.