State Sen. Scott Wiener to propose law to have state take over PG&E

State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, announced Monday he plans to propose a law to have the state take over PG&E and run it as a publicly owned utility.

"PG&E is a failed utility with a track record of prioritizing profits over safety," Wiener charged at a news conference on the steps of the State Building in San Francisco.

Wiener said he believes the state would do a better job than the currently shareholder-owned utility at preventing wildfires and blackouts.

"Wall Street will be taken out" of the equation, he said.

Under the proposed law, the State Power Authority would buy all of PG&E's shares and transfer ownership to a publicly owned utility, the Northern California Energy Utility District.

PG&E spokesman James Noonan responded, "We oppose Senator Wiener's proposed framework, and PG&E's facilities are not for sale.

"Additionally, changing the structure of the company would not create a safer or cleaner operation," Noonan said.

PG&E, facing billions of dollars in claims for wildfires sparked by electrical equipment failures, is currently in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings while it develops a financial reorganization plan.

Noonan said, "We remain focused on fairly resolving wildfire claims and exiting the Chapter 11 process as quickly as possible."

Parts of Wiener's news conference were drowned by shouts from about 30 members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, protesting that their PG&E jobs and pensions would be at risk.

Wiener said the proposed law would protect workers' collective bargaining agreements, wages, benefits and pensions.

The Utility Reform Network (TURN) said it needs to see the legislation before deciding if the plan is a good one, but that any plan going forward will need to include strong oversight. "We want to see a public plan that also protects rate payers," said Mark Toney from TURN. 

The senator hopes to introduce the bill proposing the law in the Assembly as early as Monday afternoon, according to spokeswoman Catie Stewart.

KTVU's Christien Kafton contributed to this report.