Seeking ‘trust and credibility’ after fires, PG&E to dump at least half its board members

Struggling to restore its credibility with state officials, PG&E Corp. said Monday it plans to get rid of at least half of the members of its board of directors this spring.

The utility, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month in the face of growing wildfire liabilities, said in a press release that at least five of its 10 current board members won’t run for re-election at PG&E’s annual shareholder meeting.

When the process is complete, the board will include 11 outside board members — meaning individuals who aren’t employees of PG&E. The company didn’t say how many total directors the board will comprise but added, “A majority of the directors of the company will be new, independent directors by the time of the 2019 annual meeting.” The meeting is set for May 21.

The move comes amid increasing pressure on Pacific Gas and Electric Co. to restructure, with some critics urging a state takeover of the utility. One shareholder group, hedge fund BlueMountain Capital Management, has called for the removal of all current board members. Meanwhile, the company is trying to fend off a federal judge’s proposal to impose dramatic wildfire safety rules on PG&E this year.

“We fully understand that PG&E must re-earn trust and credibility with its customers, regulators, the communities it serves and all of its stakeholders, and we are continuing to make changes that reinforce PG&E’s commitment to safety and improvement,” the company added. “We recognize the importance of adding fresh perspectives to the board to help address the serious challenges the business faces now and in the future.”

The company didn’t announce who would leave and who would stay.

PG&E has said its wildfire liabilities from 2017 and 2018 could total $30 billion. Cal Fire has said PG&E wires and other equipment were responsible for a dozen of the 2017 fires that ravaged Northern California, and is investigating whether a faulty transmission tower caused the Camp Fire, which killed 85 people in November and destroyed much of the town of Paradise.

PG&E shares rose 13 cents, to $14.33, on the New York Stock Exchange.

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Dale Kasler covers climate change, the environment, economics and the convoluted world of California water. He also covers major enterprise stories for McClatchy’s Western newspapers. He joined The Bee in 1996 from the Des Moines Register and graduated from Northwestern University.