California State Senator Calls for Executive Shakeup at PG&E

(Bloomberg) -- A California state senator who co-wrote a law to help PG&E Corp. pay for last year’s deadly wildfires is now calling for an executive shakeup at the utility.

Bill Dodd, a Democrat from Napa, said in a statement Thursday that leadership changes are necessary after state regulators accused PG&E last week of falsifying natural gas pipeline safety records. The utility owner is already under scrutiny as investigators probe whether its equipment sparked last month’s Camp Fire, the state’s deadliest on record.

“PG&E has demonstrated a pattern of poor management and illegal conduct that has shattered lives across California,” Dodd said in the emailed statement. “This latest revelation underscores the need for systematic change, which must include change on the board of directors and in the executive suite.”

Dodd’s comments add to pressure PG&E’s management faces from mounting lawsuits over wildfires and increased scrutiny from regulators. California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Picker said last month that he would open a sweeping review of the company’s safety culture, structure and governance, including a possible boardroom shakeup.

In a statement, PG&E said it understood the concerns raised by Dodd and regulators.

“We have implemented a number of corrective actions at the operational level to address these matters,” the company said. “The company’s board of directors and senior management team have been actively exploring additional changes so that PG&E’s culture and practices more fully reinforce our commitment to safety, integrity and discipline.”

The company’s shares are down 51 percent since the Camp Fire broke out six weeks ago.

State regulators likely will issue recommendations regarding PG&E’s management in the “coming days,” Dodd said in an interview. Last month, Picker said he wanted to open his review of the company by year end.

“Enough is enough,” said Dodd. “We have to have a safety culture at PG&E.” He said the commission could look at having PG&E sell its natural gas operations to help cover wildfire liability costs.

The legislation Dodd co-wrote will allow PG&E to sell bonds backed by customer bills to pay for potentially billions of dollars in damages from 2017 wildfires. Dodd’s district suffered heavy losses from wildfires last year.

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