With cries from the public of “shut it down” and “democratize our energy, don’t bail out PG&E” and signs that read “Justice for Paradise” and “Make PG&E Public,” 100 individuals were given a minute each to voice their opinions at a California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) meeting in November, 2018 about the fate of the near bankrupt private utility company. The company supplies natural gas and electricity to 16 million Californians. Notorious for not putting adequate money into its energy infrastructure, PG&E was found negligent for a gas explosion that killed eight people in 2010, faces billions in liabilities in the 2017 fires, and may face criminal penalties over last year’s Camp Fire that incinerated 86 people, burned 14,000 homes, left 200 missing, and scorched 153,000 acres. The CPUC is thinking of breaking up the utility, but keeping it privately owned. The public is demanding a publicly owned and community-operated utility.
Below are some of the comments and suggestions from the people directly affected by the recent Camp Fire who were present at the CPUC meeting.
“We will not be silenced as long as people are continually poisoned and killed. PG&E and YOU are guilty!”
“This is the second straight year we’ve had to choke on the carbonized remains of our neighbors! It’s evil but not illogical because if you’re going to continue to bail out PG&E to provide public money to socialize their losses, what is their incentive to act safely? There is none. Hold them responsible by not bailing them out for killing our neighbors and destroying our homes!”
“Why do we have to pay for millions of dollars of PG&E ads on TV? They’re a monopoly. You (CPUC) are enablers of PG&E and all these corporations to make as much profit as they can regardless of our health or even our lives.”
(Young mom holding her 20-month-old son): “He’s already had to breathe in toxic smoke from two fires caused by PG&E. I also work at two schools in my neighborhood in Fruitvale and Oakland serving low-income kids. They’re running around on the playground with no masks; going back into schools with no air filters; then going to homes with no filters! I’m terrified for his future and all of their futures. Then I found out the CEO of PG&E got over $8 million last year that could have gone to protecting kids in my neighborhood from the smoke. It could have gone to switch to renewables faster so their futures wouldn’t go up in smoke. Then I found out we families have to pay for that negligence instead of that CEO; that’s crazy to me! Our kids need a safer, cleaner future protected from climate change. The state needs to take over the utilities and make them public!”
“Electricity is a human right. It needs to be run for people, not for profit.”
“We want the utility to be taken over entirely as a public power agency with the community controlling its infrastructure. Public power already exists in other areas and rates are much lower. Sixty percent of electric utilities in this country are publicly run. Why not PG&E?”