Newsom tries to deflect blame, but PG&E is the agent of his policies.
After again shutting power to hundreds of thousands this week, California’s utility PG&E disclosed Thursday that it had discovered a broken jumper cable by the ignition site of a wildfire blazing across Sonoma County. The company has warned of more blackouts this weekend and perhaps for the next decade as it refurbishes its aging grid.
Gov. Gavin Newsom is trying to deflect political blame. “It’s about dog-eat-dog capitalism meeting climate change. It’s about corporate greed meeting climate change. It’s about decades of mismanagement,” Mr. Newsom declared. But Democrats for years have treated PG&E as their de facto political subsidiary. The wildfires and blackouts are the direct result of their mismanagement.
The state Public Utilities Commission is in charge of enforcing state safety laws and regulations, which can carry penalties of up to $50,000 per violation per day. Yet PG&E received no safety fines related to its power-grid management over the last several years. The commission has instead focused on enforcing the Legislature’s climate mandates.
State law mandates that utilities obtain 33% of electric generation from renewables such as wind and solar by 2020 and 60% by 2030. Utilities must spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year to reduce the cost of green energy for low-income households. PG&E has prioritized political obeisance over safety.
In 2018 PG&E spent $509 million on electric discounts for low-income customers in addition to $125 million for no-cost weatherization and efficiency upgrades for disadvantaged communities. Utilities also receive allowances from the state’s cap-and-trade program—$7.5 billion since 2012—to pay for other “ratepayer benefits” that reduce emissions.