PG&E has a new corporate motto.
“No more disasters, no more catastrophes, no more fatalities.”
Those are the words of the man the wolves hired to guard the hen house — PG&E CEO Bill Johnson.
Those nine words are how he boiled down PG&E’s mission before the California Commission Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday during a hearing on how the for-profit utility is going to refrain from killing people, burning down thousands of homes every year, and occasionally take out a city or two.
By now we all know that PG&E is a combo of Darth Vader in terms of how they dispatch anything that gets in the way of their relentless drive for even more profits and a Mafia protection racket in terms of how they shake down people through power rates.
Of course, like all good wolves in sheep clothing, Johnson stressed over and over again that he wasn’t part of the pack when it blew up hen houses, triggered a scorched earth renewal of the barnyard, and slaughtered nearly 140 chickens in their drive to reduce costs to squeeze out more profits.
Why shouldn’t 16 million Californians that are at the mercy of PG&E for a basic modern-day need as electricity believe Johnson? PG&E, after all, has a track record that includes two bankruptcies in 20 years, blowing up a neighborhood while killing 8 customers, triggering wildfires with faulty equipment they basically made the decision not to address to maximize profits, almost wiped Paradise off the face of the earth while killing 85 people and burning down 14,000 homes, killing another 40 plus people in less spectacular triggered PG&E infernos, failing to address new construction needs of private firms and public agencies in a timely manner, and gamed the system to avoid paying taxes for 11 years while enjoying record profits all the time while saddling and gouging ratepayers with the highest electrical rates?
The CPUC has a history of buying lines like Johnson delivered Tuesday from PG&E brass over and over again. First time, maybe it was trying to be fair. Second time, it was maybe an issue of trying to make sure that it just isn’t a matter of being a coincidence. Third time, you might be thinking it’s a trend but aren’t ready to pass judgment. But by the fourth, fifth, sixth, etc. time it has become the norm.
The question isn’t whether Johnson will do his job which, by the way, is ultimately to maximize the profits of stockholders but whether the CPUC and legislature as well as the governor are doing their jobs.
If after killing almost 140 people, burning down 300 to 1,400 homes every year, plunging large swaths of the world’s sixth largest economy into Third World status due to PG&E triggered blackouts to basically reduce their exposure to liability because of their failure to address core issues such as maintenance and replacing aging and dilapidated equipment our state leaders don’t know the answer then the State of California is stuck in see no evil, speak no evil, and hear no evil mode.
At the heart of the matter is exactly who created the monster known as PG&E.
PG&E cannot exist without the consent of Sacramento.
Everyone seems to forget for-profit utilities need the blessing of the state to do business.
For-profit utilities are essentially granted exclusive franchises that give companies like PG&E the ability to operate without competition. California goes a step further and has a rate setting commission that guarantees PG&E and others a minimum return of around 10.5 percent regardless how bad they run their electrical service.
One would wonder what the head of McDonalds would do if one of its franchisees on a routine basis failed to modernize and maintain equipment, burned customer cars, killed off customers, and kept jacking up prices.
Rest assured if Bill Johnson was hired essentially by owners of a group of McDonalds to plead their case before the corporate decision makers as to whether they should be continued to be allowed to run McDonald’s after a history of torch, kill, and bankruptcy while showering top management with tons of bonuses they would have been shown the door years ago.
What is going on now as a June 30 deadline looms for the governor to determine whether or not a lifeline will be thrown to PG&E in the form of the wildlife liability fund so it can emerge from bankruptcy is essentially determining whether PG&E can be trusted.
From the perspective of the people paying the nation’s highest power rates and who have to worry about spoiled food and such from forced blackouts, or wondering whether their home is liable to get burned down or blown up the answer for most is painfully obvious.
At this point someone who embraces the PG&E way that has been made clear over and over again is not exactly in the best interest of ratepayers, is a borderline masochist.
As for those in power to do something, letting PG&E continue to do business on the words of yet another CEO making the same old mea culpa performance are sadists when it comes to how they treat 16 million Californians.
The question is no longer whether PG&E can deliver on its Guinness Book qualifying record of broken promises but how much longer are leaders in Sacramento going to continue to shirk their responsibilities to the defenseless citizens that are put at the mercy of PG&E’s greed and wanton disregard of public safety that has been clearly established at the corporate level.
The public’s anger should no longer be directed at PG&E or their lapdogs at the CPUC.
Instead it should be laser focused on the people who are the ones who have the power to improve the lives of 16 million Californians.
And the way they can do that is by running the wolves out of the barnyard so 16 million chickens will no longer have to worry about their nest egg either being squandered by paying budget busting power rates or their nest being blown up or burned down.