Cities to be reimbursed for costs from recent PG&E shutoffs

State legislators are reimbursing cities for costs incurred from recent Pacific Gas and Electric power shutoffs. 

“These dollars will help us invest in that very expensive capitol infrastructure,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. 

Flanked by State Senator Jim Beall at City Hall, Liccardo said the $500,000 in state money will go to help San Jose in its quest to add micro grids and communications equipment ahead of future power shutoff events. The money comes from a pool of $75 million at the state level, distributed to affected cities, half a million dollars to larger cities, less to smaller ones..

“It’s a small amount of money, about 50 cents for the average citizen in San Jose. Real problem, will the state be wealthy enough to come up with a little change for us?” said San Jose State University business and strategic management professor Dr. Robert Chapman Wood.

Dating back to late last month, the utility has had three power shutoffs due to fears strong winds could topple aging power lines, touching off wildfires. Officials are investigating if damaged PG&E lines are a partial cause for the Kincade Fire.

“We have equipment that goes over our mountains in San Jose. And we could very well have the same kind of situation here,” said Beall.

Beall said a PG&E proposed 10 year fix is too long, and leaves residents vulnerable to the uncertainty of shutoffs. Some San Jose residents agree, arguing the city’s reimbursement isn’t trickling down to them.

“I guess it helps. It’s just like a band-aid, a temporary band-aid. But there’s still gonna need to be some fixing to do,” said Enrique Macias, a resident of the Windmill Springs neighborhood in East San Jose.

Officials said the California Public Utilities Commission will determine if customers can be made whole, after the utility emerges from bankruptcy proceedings. Both Liccardo and Beall said the half million dollars is a way to address an on-going crisis, while laying a foundation for a taxpayer-owned utility.

“This is about investments we need to make to be more resilient for the future. And there are a lot of investments we need to make, and this money will be very welcomed,” said Liccardo. 

Senator Beall says a state task force will take up the question of fire safety, PG&E and reimbursements to individuals starting November 18. On Nov. 5, San Jose city staff is expected to provide greater details and costs for the mayor’s plan to build micro grids here to make the city more resilient.