California Governor Blames Greed, Not Climate Change, for Bay Area Blackouts

Gavin Newsom took Pacific Gas & Electric to task in a press conference.

Justin Sullivan/Getty

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom put California public utility Pacific Gas & Electric on blast Thursday while the company worked to slowly restore power to the more than one million people affected by its planned blackouts. Strong wind forecasts during hot, dry weather—ideal conditions for the wildfires that have plagued the state in recent years—prompted PG&E to preemptively cut electricity across Central and Northern California. Though climate change certainly at play in the uptick in powerful wildfires, Newsom primarily cast blame on the utility company for poor management that he says has left California with a “false choice…between public safety and hardship.” 

“This is not from my perspective a climate change story as much as it is a story about greed and mismanagement over the course of decades,” Newsom said. “[It is about] neglect, and a desire to protect not public safety but profits.”

Despite the tough talk, California lawmakers have protected PG&E to some extent. Last year, then-Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill many considered to be a “bailout” that could allow the utility to recover some of its liability costs from 2017 wildfires by ultimately charging customers on their monthly bills. 

In a press conference in Sacramento, Newsom said that PG&E neglected to improve and maintain the electric grid for decades, which led to the devastating Camp and Woolsey fires in Northern and Southern California in 2018 and ultimately bankrupted the company.

“What has occurred in the last 48 hours is unacceptable,” Newsom said. “Parents who can’t bathe their kids, folks that come home from work and can’t even find a way to get into their garage; you’ve got people who can’t even access water or medical supplies. We’re seeing a scale and scope of something that no state in the 21st century should experience.”

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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