PG&E, the bankrupt utility that shut off power to a wide swath of customers to curb wildfire risk, has been summoned to an emergency meeting of the California Utilities Commission, its primary regulator.
Commission President Marybel Batjer told Pacific Gas & Electric CEO Bill Johnson in a blunt letter this week that she took great issue with the firm's decision to turn off power for 2 million people, asserting that it created an "unacceptable situation."
She demanded that PG&E return power to frustrated California residents in 12 hours -- not in 48 hours, as PG&E had planned on doing. The electric company, whose bankruptcy was linked to damages from massive wildfires in 2017 and 2018, stopped electrical service in portions of the state experiencing dry, windy conditions in which an electrical spark can lead to a conflagration.
While the utility understands the problems the Oct. 9 outages caused, Johnson wrote in a response to the commission, "we ask our customers, their families and our local and state leaders to keep in mind the statistic that matters the most: There were no catastrophic wildfires."
Gov. Gavin Newsom, meanwhile, has blasted the utility for what he called decades of mismanagement, underinvestment and lousy communication with the public.
On Thursday, the leader of the California Senate asked a committee to "begin investigating and reviewing options to address the serious deficiencies" with PG&E's current process.
"The public understandably is outraged over the problems that arose with these shutoffs," Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins wrote in a memo to the Senate Democratic Caucus. "We owe it to our constituents to act."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.