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Regulator Calls PG&E Outage 'an Unacceptable Situation'

California utility ordered to take a series of steps to improve performance
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 14, 2019 7:20 PM CDT
Employees work last week in the PG&E Emergency Operations Center in San Francisco. California's utility regulator is issuing a series of sanctions against the utility.   (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
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(Newser) – California's top utility regulator blasted Pacific Gas and Electric on Monday for what she called "failures in execution" during the largest planned power outage in state history to avoid wildfires that, she said, "created an unacceptable situation that should never be repeated." The agency ordered a series of actions, including a goal of restoring power within 12 hours, not the utility's current 48-hour goal, the AP reports. "The scope, scale, complexity, and overall impact to people's lives, businesses, and the economy of this action cannot be understated," California Public Utilities Commission President Marybel Batjer wrote in a letter to PG&E CEO Bill Johnson. PG&E last week took the unprecedented step of cutting power to more than 700,000 customers, affecting nearly 2 million people. The company said it did it because of dangerous wind forecasts but acknowledged that its execution was poor. Its website frequently crashed, and many people said they did not receive enough warning that the power was going out.

"We were not adequately prepared," Johnson said at a press conference last week. PG&E spokespeople did not immediately respond Monday to a request for comment on the sanctions. Batjer ordered the utility to perform an audit of its performance during the outages that began Wednesday, saying it clearly did not adopt many of the recommendations state officials have made. The review is due by Thursday, and she ordered PG&E executives to appear at an emergency hearing Friday. Gov. Gavin Newsom has also criticized PG&E, blaming what he called decades of mismanagement, underinvestment and lousy communication with the public. He called on the utility to give residential customers a $100 rebate. "Lives and commerce were interrupted," Newsom wrote Johnson, per the Los Angeles Times. "Too much hardship was caused."

(Read more PG&E stories.)

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