Stephen Ellison

San Jose Mayor Gains More Support For PG&E Takeover Plan, But Still Has a Long Way to Go

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo’s plan to turn PG&E into a customer-owned utility is surging with new public support.

On Thursday, the mayor presented an updated plan to finance and operate the utility. He also showed a growing list of new supporters, local and statewide.

But the progress report Liccardo delivered at City Hall also showed how much more needs to be done for the plan to become a reality.

Liccardo acknowledged he is aiming high in trying to turn PG&E into a customer-owned nonprofit utility. And in the wake of wildfires and power shutoffs across the state, his initial proposal last month drew support from about 20 mayors and county supervisors. That number has jumped to 114 elected officials from 58 cities and 10 counties.

During Thursday's news conference, Liccardo presented operating principles for the transformation, such as geographic inclusion to make sure areas aren’t left out; how a governing board would be formed; public accountability to ensure transparency; and safety and response related to wildfire protection.

Liccardo said the bottom line is more customer dollars will go to fortify an aging power grid faster than PG&E’s 10-year plan.

"The power safety shutoffs are not going to stop until this company has hardened this grid and ensured that we can operate reliably and safely without causing fires," Liccardo said.

Santa Clara University law professor and former CPUC commissioner Catherine Sandoval said she’s impressed with the plan's goals, but she added that it's a long way from showing the ability to meet the vast responsibilities, including helping rural areas.

"They haven’t addressed the scope of their operating capacity or their financial capacity for such a takeover," Sandoval said.

Liccardo said his team will focus on those issues during the holidays, meeting with financial institutions to make a better case when PG&E emerges from bankruptcy.

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