SACRAMENTO—On February 3, California State Senator Scott Wiener proposed a new bill that would transform PG&E into a public utility just days after the company formally outlined a plan for reorganization. 

SB 917 would use eminent domain to force shareholders to sell their stocks to California. The Oxford dictionary describes eminent domain as, “the right of a government or its agent to expropriate private property for public use, with payment of compensation.” 

Senator Wiener indicated that the structure of the new state-run utility would be modeled off of New York’s Long Island Power Authority.

“For me, protecting these workers is a top priority,” said Wiener. 

The plan is to introduce state employees as upper management. Most of the utility workers would be employed by a newly created non-profit that would be contracted out by the state. The bill would not let the company’s current workers become state workers, a move that would preserve their current benefits and pensions.

PG&E recently filed for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on January 21, 2020 to help moderate the estimated tens of billions of dollars in liabilities from the 2017 and 2018 wildfires. The company claims that they are unable to borrow enough money to maintain operating costs. PG&E CEO John Simon said the company will continue to focus on wildfire safety.

According to bankruptcy court documents, PG&E is planning on regionalizing the company’s operations and infrastructures in a way that would provide local communities with tangible safety managers that oversee assigned regions. It also intends to enlist a panel of experts from outside of the company that will regularly conduct safety reviews.

PG&E pledged to “refresh” its board of directors per Governor Gavin Newsom’s request, but it has not been determined whether they plan to overhaul the entire board.