Meribel Batger announced Tuesday that she will step down as president of the California Public Utilities Commission later this year.
Is there anyone who can break Pacific Gas and Electric?
Batjir gained a reputation as a “fix it” expert when Newsom appointed him the state’s top utility regulator in 2019.
Prior to Badger’s appointment, PUC had a long history of being comfortable up to PG&E and when utilities put profits before safety. This misbehavior has killed more than 100 Californians and burned tens of thousands of homes over the past 10 years.
PG&E became a convicted felon in 2017 for its role in the 2010 San Bruno bombing that killed eight people and destroyed a quiet residential neighborhood. He pleaded guilty to 84 counts of non-lethal massacre in 2020 that sparked the deadly 2018 campfire that burned the town of Paradise.
Credit Better for his role in strengthening PUC’s reputation in Sacramento and reaching an agreement with PG&E to recover from bankruptcy in 2020. The agreement includes a way for the state to take over the utility if it fails to clear its act.
Still, devastating wildfires continue in Northern California. PG&E has already acknowledged that the falling tree may be responsible for the Dixie fire, which began in July and has burned about 1.1 million acres and 1,300 structures, including more than 500. Single family homes are also included. And Shasta County DA Stephanie Bridget last month charged PG&E with involuntary manslaughter in a 31-count complaint. He alleged that the utility committed 11 serious crimes and 20 corruptions in connection with the 2020 zoo fire, which PG&E admitted when a tree fell on a power line. Nevertheless, the utility acknowledged this spring that it had failed to achieve its goal of pruning its trees.
Batjir also supervised the PUC while the state endured two nights of PG&E rolling blackout.
Meanwhile, PG&E is seeking another rate hike that will increase prices by about 55% or about 36 36.36 per month. Despite its failures, PG&E charges customers the highest rates of any utility in the country.
It will not be easy for Newsom to find a replacement for Batger. This work requires someone to force PG&E to live up to its security commitments – a leader who will put the needs of rate payers ahead of the needs of Wall Street.
In 2019, the legislature passed AB 1054, which gives PG&E access to a فائر 21 billion wildfire fund if its equipment ignites, causing significant financial losses. But the insurance fund can be accessed only if the utility obtains a security certificate issued by the state.
With climate change creating an increasingly dangerous fire season, the governor needs to appoint a PUC president who will use every available tool to hold PG&E accountable for its safety performance.