San Francisco Chronicle
By San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo
Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s lawyers recently submitted a revised plan to take the company out of bankruptcy, masterfully sprinkling billions among the company’s most powerful stakeholders — hedge funds, shareholders and bondholders — along with perhaps $1 billion in fees to consultants, banks and, yes, attorneys. All will cheer the company’s procession out of bankruptcy court and over to the California Public Utilities Commission, again and again, for rate hikes.
But 73,000 wildfire victims and 16 million California ratepayers should not be cheering.
The wildfire victims deserve better. The utility will pay those claimants from a $13.5 billion fund financed half in cash and half in stock — PG&E stock. That’s right: The current plan tethers the victims’ financial futures to the performance of the company that burned down their homes. It also saddles those families with the risk of any future wildfires started by PG&E’s failing equipment. That’s chutzpah.
If the victims are worried about uncertain PG&E stock valuations, they should be. In the 23-month span over which the company’s wires ignited 18 wildfires — killing 107 people and destroying 15,700 homes — the company’s shares plummeted 90%. What about the next wildfire season?