SLO County could intervene in PG&E bankruptcy proceedings

As worries over what PG&E’s bankruptcy announcement means for the Central Coast pile up, San Luis Obispo County officials say it’s possible the county could intervene in the proceedings if the public utility does file.

“As of today, the county has not taken any action to intervene in the PG&E bankruptcy proceeding,” county Administrative Officer Wade Horton said in an email to The Tribune on Tuesday night. “However, we are closely monitoring the situation and the Board of Supervisors may decide to intervene at a future date.”

PG&E warned employees on Monday that it intends to file for Chapter 11 reorganization, as it faces $30 billion in liability claims for its role in last year’s devastating Northern California wildfires.

The move puts a lot of the public utility’s future operations up in the air, and has sparked concern locally about the potential impacts.

Supervisor Adam Hill, whose district includes PG&E’s Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, said he feels it is likely the county would choose to intervene to protect its interests.

This includes the $85 million settlement economic development package and $350 million employee retention and retraining program signed into law as SB 1090 by former Gov. Jerry Brown in September 2018.

The money comes from a ratepayer increase, approved by the California Public Utilities Commission in December 2018.

A portion of the funding is earmarked for local agencies to help support San Luis Obispo County through and after the anticipated shutdown of Diablo Canyon in 2025.

“When the bankruptcy process begins, we will get a better understanding of what we may need to file about, but right now we believe 1090 funds, passed by legislature, signed by (Brown) and deriving from ratepayer funds, will not be in jeopardy,” Hill wrote in an email to The Tribune. “But right now no one can say anything with certainty.”

PG&E spokesman Blair Jones said that the money is expected to be safe from the bankruptcy proceedings.

“Since these activities are mandated, CPUC approved and funded, we do not anticipate that the Chapter 11 process will have any impact on these programs,” Jones said Wednesday.

Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham (R-San Luis Obispo), who co-authored SB 1090 with Senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel), also said he believed the funds were safe.

“SB 1090 is state law, and accordingly the funds required by that law should not be impacted,” Cunningham said in a statement to The Tribune. “That said, I fully support and encourage the beneficiaries of those funds to join the bankruptcy proceedings to make sure that our local voices are heard.”

Cunningham added: “Our office will continue to work with PG&E to ensure that the closure date of Diablo Canyon doesn’t come any sooner than originally planned, and that the SB 1090 dollars come into our local community as required.”

The county Board of Supervisors will intervene in another of PG&E’s proposed rate increases.

On Tuesday, the board decided to intervene in PG&E’s application before the California Public Utilities Commission to seek $1.6 billion from ratepayers to pay for increased costs associated with decommissioning Diablo Canyon.

The county is expected to file that paperwork on Thursday.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify comments from PG&E spokesman Blair Jones.

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Kaytlyn Leslie writes about business and development for The San Luis Obispo Tribune. Hailing from Nipomo, she also covers city governments and happenings in the South County region, including Arroyo Grande, Pismo Beach and Grover Beach. She joined The Tribune in 2013 after graduating from Cal Poly with her journalism degree.