Gov. Gavin Newsom of California said on Friday that Pacific Gas & Electric’s restructuring plan did not comply with a state law, throwing up a new hurdle to the company’s effort to resolve its bankruptcy.
The move was not surprising given that Mr. Newsom, a Democrat, has criticized PG&E for starting devastating wildfires, not moving fast enough to resolve the claims of fire victims and not moving fast enough to improve its safety practices.
A law the California Legislature passed this year gave Mr. Newsom the authority to approve any restructuring plan PG&E submits to the United States Bankruptcy Court. Mr. Newsom’s letter indicates that the company will have to engage in further negotiations with the governor before it can end its bankruptcy and participate in a state wildfire fund.
“In my judgment, the Amended Plan and the restructuring transactions do not result in a reorganized company positioned to provide safe, reliable, and affordable service to its customers,” Mr. Newsom told PG&E in the letter.
PG&E filed for bankruptcy in January after amassing tens of billions of dollars in liability because of fires caused by its equipment. The fires included the 2018 Camp Fire, which killed 85 people and destroyed the town of Paradise.
To prevent more devastating wildfires, the utility intentionally cut power to millions of customers this fall. The move angered Californians and had prompted Mr. Newsom to demand that the company make far-reaching changes.
“PG&E’s board of directors and management have a responsibility to immediately develop a feasible plan,” Mr. Newsom said. “Anything else is irresponsible, a breach of fiduciary duties, and a clear violation of the public trust.”
My take is that anything that has current management tossed out on their ass without severance, bankruptcy invalidates their employment contracts, is a good thing, and if it ends up with some sort of publicly owned utility, it’s even better.