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License to Burn Feb 2022 Press Release - FINAL
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Feb. 1, 2022

Contact: Pete Woiwode,

Website: Twitter/FB/insta: @utilityjustice

Newsom administration issues “safety certificate” to PG&E despite urgent plea from Californians to reject “PG&E’s license to burn!”

Newsom green lights “license to burn” right before PG&E fire survivors and environmental justice leaders hold public event

OAKLAND, Calif. - Late yesterday afternoon, Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration issued utility giant PG&E’s “safety certificate,” which fire survivors and advocates are calling a “license to burn.” Granting the safety certificate means PG&E customers, including PG&E fire survivors, are on the hook to bail out the utility financially if it causes further wildfires. Today wildfire survivors, energy experts and environmental justice leaders publicly urged the governor to deny PG&E’s request for the “license to burn,” but learned during their press event from journalists that the Governor had granted the certificate hours before. (A recording of the event can be seen here on FB. Full recording file available upon request).

"It's no coincidence that hours before we were going public with our demands, days before meeting with the people who have been terrorized by PG&E, the Newsom administration quietly handed a License to Burn back to the most murderous corporation in history," said Mari Rose Taruc, coordinator of the Reclaim Our Power Utility Justice Campaign. "This process has been opaque from the beginning, and Newsom's decision today continues the legacy of protecting shareholder profits while our communities pay the price."

"We've demanded transparency and leadership for years- and today was the opposite." Taruc continued "He still has the chance to intervene in PG&E's deadly ways. Today's decision was a staggering failure by the Newsom administration - but these failures have deadly consequences. The people of California can't afford any more."  

"What a colossal failure of leadership. Today’s decision is a doubling down on the energy system that got us in this mess- not the 21st century utility that we were promised. What we need is a safe, reliable, renewable energy system, controlled by the workers and communities that need power to live. Fire survivors, not corporate executives, should decide our energy future." said Gabriela Orantes, from the North Bay Organizing Project. "Our vision for a future is possible, and we're building it every day- but it is incompatible with PG&E and their License to Burn. Governor Newsom, we need you to lead, or step out of the way."

"Governor Gavin Newsom is guilty of aiding and abetting a convicted serial killer by granting them a License to Burn. This means more lives lost and destruction to communities throughout California and higher utility bills with every bailout we're forced to pay," said Jessica Tovar, Local Clean Energy Alliance. “We’re done with PG&E, and Governor Newsom should be too.”

"Now that Newsom's given PG&E a License to Burn, who's going to pay for PG&E's murderous failures?” asked Mary Kay Beson, fire survivor advocate and Butte county resident. “People in Butte county who live every day knowing the fires will come back, people with disabilities who know that a corporation who's willing to shut off their breathing machines to make a profit, people who have to choose between paying rent, feeding their kids, or keeping the power on because their PG&E bill is going up to cover executive salaries. Does that seem "safe" to you, Governor Newsom?"

PG&E fire survivors and environmental justice leaders call the “safety certificate” a license to burn because with a new safety certificate in hand, the utility will be eligible to tap into a $21 billion “wildfire fund” to pay itself back for the damages it causes if it sparks yet another fire. Incredibly, the state wildfire fund is funded by utility customers through monthly utility bill surcharges and ratepayer revenues.

Fire survivors, people with disabilities, environmental justice groups and energy experts from the Reclaim Our Power Utility Justice Campaign were scheduled to meet with Governor Newsom next week to discuss the safety certificate. They demand that PG&E - not fire survivors and ratepayers - be financially responsible for PG&E’s fires, and the Newsom administration works to take the energy of California out of the hands of Wall St., and put it in the hands of the people.

“Governor Newsom needs to trust us - the people of California, the people closest to the ground, the people who have suffered from PG&E’s reign of terror,” said Margarita Garcia, a lead organizer in Sonoma County working with farm workers and fire survivors. “In the farm fields, in our homes, in our communities - our lives, lungs and livelihoods have been sacrificed for PG&E’s profits. We’re fighting for control of our future, and we need Governor Newsom on our side.” Garcia is a leader of North Bay Jobs with Justice working for environmental, language, health and safety justice in the wine fields.

California’s “wildfire fund” was established in 2019 via the Newsom administration-drafted AB 1054. The law, which was pushed through the legislature in just five days, allows PG&E and the state’s other investor-owned utilities, San Diego Gas & Electric Co., and Southern California Edison, to tap into a $21 billion “wildfire fund” when they cause destructive and deadly fires. The fund is paid for by utility customers via surcharges on utility bills, plus utility revenues created by ratepayers. To qualify for access to the fund, utilities must acquire a yearly “safety certificate” from the state’s Office of Energy Infrastructure Safety.

Advocates and ratepayers aren’t the only ones sounding the alarm against PG&E. Recently, U.S. District Judge Willam Alsup, who oversaw the company’s probation[1] over the past five years, called the utility a “menace to California.” He added “PG&E has gone on a crime spree” during its probation period noting that “while on probation, PG&E has set at least 31 wildfires, burned nearly one and one-half million acres, burned 23,956 structures, and killed 113 Californians.”

Investigators confirm the utility giant is responsible for several of the most devastating fires in California’s history including the 2021 Dixie Fire, the 2020 Zogg Fire, the 2019 Kincade Fire, and the 2018 Camp Fire. In addition, PG&E was convicted of multiple safety violations stemming from the 2010 deadly San Bruno pipeline explosion. And, a Nevada jury found PG&E guilty of 739 counts of criminal negligence for starting the 1994 Sierra Blaze for failing to trim trees near its power lines.

In order to secure a “safety certificate” from Gov. Newsom, PG&E does not have to stop leveling communities nor does it have to provide reliable or safe electricity. The company doesn’t even have to stop killing people with fires. All PG&E has to do to earn its new “safety certificate” is create and get a rubber stamp on a “wildfire mitigation plan, agree to implement the findings of a safety assessment, establish a safety committee made up of PG&E’s own board members and say that the company is tying executive compensation to safety.

“Thirty-percent of Butte County’s homeless are wildfire survivors, many of whom have not received one penny from PG&E’s settlement for the Camp Fire survivors. Why should PG&E be paid before fire survivors?” said Mary Kay Benson, advocate for fire survivors and Butte County homeless organizer.

PG&E fire survivors and environmental justice leaders see a better path forward for Californians. A safe, efficient, equitable, clean energy future for California would include smaller, locally-based, independent and self-sufficient, clean power systems made up of a combination of solar panels, wind turbines, combined heat & power, batteries as well as public utilities that answer to the people who live in California. Microgrids powered by safe, clean energy plus storage are a reality today - they keep the power on when PG&E’s grid fails or when the utility shuts it down. Examples include UC San Diego’s microgrid, Sonoma County’s Stone Edge Farm, multiple fire stations in the City of Fremont, residential neighborhoods, and small business complexes.

PG&E’s negligence is unprecedented, our response needs to be transformative,”said Taruc. “Governor Newsom is putting PG&E profits before our lives.”


About Reclaim Our Power: Utility Justice Campaign

Reclaim Our Power is working to restructure California’s energy system so that it can meet the needs of our most impacted communities—towards the vision of a new decentralized, democratized energy system in California.      





[1] PG&E was ordered to serve the probation period as a result of the company’s crimes connected to the 2010 San Bruno natural gas pipeline explosion.