Viewpoints

PG&E has not been what California deserves. That’s going to change

‘We are not in an energy crisis,’ Newsom says of PG&E bankruptcy

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Jan. 14, 2019, held a press conference to discuss PG&E’s plan to declare bankruptcy.
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California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Jan. 14, 2019, held a press conference to discuss PG&E’s plan to declare bankruptcy.

The people of Northern and Central California deserve more than they’ve gotten from PG&E.

What they have today is a bankrupt utility that’s under federal probation for a gas pipeline explosion, and whose electric lines have ignited wildfires, including what became California’s most destructive blaze, the Camp Fire.

I’ve seen the devastation from that blaze first hand and spoken with people who lost homes and loved ones. Their tragedy remains fresh. To all of them, I apologize. Not just as the new CEO of PG&E, but as a human being.

I did not come here to make excuses.

I’m here to help my 23,000 colleagues make sure nothing like that ever happens again.

Our customers, and the people of California, deserve a gas and electric company whose commitment to safety is second to none. They deserve a company that not only meets their high standards, but also sets the standard for the industry. They deserve a company they can be proud to receive service from.

Opinion

Like everyone who wears PG&E blue, I am determined to measure up to what is expected of us and to deliver on our obligations.

Words alone cannot restore your trust. What matters are actions. What matters are results. We must say what we are going to do, and we must do what we say.

Here’s what I’m going to do, and be held accountable for:

My first priority is to focus PG&E on the fundamentals of operating a utility system. We must master those skills and retain that mastery. We must find what is broken, repair it and then continue to get better. Wildfire prevention is a very large part of that effort.

Second will be to fairly compensate all wildfire victims for any damages we caused. We will emerge from bankruptcy as fast as possible so that those claims can be paid.

Third will be continuing to help California achieve its clean energy goals and build a carbon-free future. PG&E’s support for that vision is as strong as ever, and it will not change.

My experience in and around the utility industry stretches back four decades. It includes serving as the CEO of two companies of comparable size to PG&E, one with an even larger geographic footprint. I want to use that knowledge to help here in California.

I believe that the utility business exists to make people’s lives better. It’s a business I’ve seen from almost every possible vantage point. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that how well a utility performs on safety is a predictor of how it performs in every other area.

It’s about everyone at the company believing in safety to our very core and proving it in the choices we make every day.

That’s the PG&E you deserve. Our job is to make sure that you get it.

Bill Johnson started at PG&E Corporation on May 2 as CEO and President.

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