California regulators said they are considering breaking up Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), the state’s largest utility company, into smaller units as the company has been linked to gas pipeline explosions, massive wildfires and mismanagement.
The California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) announcement came a day after state senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) called for a PG&E shakeup. Sen. Dodd, who has been a PG&E ally and wrote legislation that would help the utility pay for lawsuits filed in the wake of the 2017 wine-country wildfires, said “PG&E has demonstrated a pattern of poor management and illegal conduct that has shattered lives across California.
“Enough is enough … We have to have a safety culture at PG&E,” Sen. Dodd said, according to Bloomberg.
On Dec. 21, the CPUC started a formal evaluation to determine what actions it could take to bring PG&E in line with the state’s safety rules and regulations. The Commission said it could break up the utility into separate gas and electric companies, split it into smaller regional subsidiary companies, or turn it into a public utility.
Another option under consideration is to leave the utility intact but overhaul its board of directors and corporate management, either partially or completely, the Associated Press reported.
The CPUC is taking comments on its proposed measures through Jan. 30, 2019.
PG&E fell under close regulatory scrutiny in 2010 after a pipeline explosion leveled more than three dozen homes in the San Francisco suburb of San Bruno. A federal court convicted PG&E on six criminal charges for violating pipeline safety rules and obstructing an investigation of the blast. The utility was also ordered to pay a penalty of more than $1.6 billion.
Earlier in December, a CPUC investigation found that PG&E falsified records related to locating and marking underground gas lines from 2012 through 2017, despite its criminal convictions, fines, and five-year probation related to the San Bruno blast.
During that time, PG&E also spent millions on advertising campaigns to persuade the public that it had cleaned up its act and committed itself to higher safety standards.
PG&E’s faulty and poorly maintained electrical infrastructure has also been blamed for the 2017 wildfires that swept through Napa and Sonoma. The utility faces billions of dollars in lawsuits over the devastating fires.
Investigations of PG&E’s role in the Camp Fire wildfires that killed at least 88 people and destroyed entire communities have intensified after it was discovered that PG&E reported problems with a damaged transmission tower where the fire broke out on Nov. 8.