BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — California power regulators unexpectedly delayed a key vote on Pacific Gas & Electric’s plan for getting out of bankruptcy Thursday after one of the utility’s most outspoken critics sent an improper email attacking the company’s proposal to pay wildfire victims.
California Public Utilities Commission President Marybel Batjer postponed the vote on PG&E’s $58 billion plan for ending its nearly year-and-a-half-old bankruptcy until May 28, which coincides with a federal bankruptcy court trial on the plan.
State power regulators and a U.S. bankruptcy judge must approve PG&E’s plans by June 30 for the company to qualify for coverage from California’s wildfire insurance fund, but PG&E should still be able to meet that deadline.
Nevertheless, Batjer was irked by the need to postpone Thursday’s vote because of an email sent Tuesday by Will Abrams, the survivor of a 2017 wildfire that tore through his Santa Rosa, California hometown. The communication came during a mandated quiet period from May 15 through Thursday.
In the email, Abrams reiterated his objections to PG&E’s plan and objections filed with the bankruptcy court by a committee that represents wildfire victims about their growing doubts the utility will be able to pay the $13.5 billion it has pledged to a fund for the fire victims.
Batjer delayed the vote so PG&E and other parties could respond to Abrams’ email. Another quiet period will start Friday and continue through May 28. Batjer warned of “serious consequences,” including potential fines, for any other violations.
Abrams told The Associated Press he didn’t think he was doing anything wrong because his email didn’t include any commentary that hadn’t already been entered into the record. “I tried my best to follow the rules,” said Abrams, who isn’t a lawyer.
PG&E did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company has consistently hailed its plan as the best way to pay wildfire victims and position the utility to make badly needed upgrades to its electrical equipment to prevent more deadly disasters.
Abrams has repeatedly lambasted the plan as a boon for short-term investors trying to capitalize on PG&E and a ticking time bomb for the 16 million people who rely on PG&E for power in Northern California.