California

California Gov. Gavin Newsom ‘outraged’ by PG&E blackouts, but says they’re needed

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday he’s “outraged” over Pacific Gas and Electric Co shut-offs, blaming decades of mismanagement at the utility.

He made the comments Wednesday morning, several hours after millions of Californians woke up without power amid massive blackouts that have stranded huge swaths of the state without electricity.

Given the potential danger posed by the utility’s power lines, Newsom said the blackouts are needed to keep people safe as powerful winds sweep through the state.

“I’m outraged because it didn’t have to happen,” Newsom told reporters at a news conference in San Diego. “They’re in bankruptcy due to their terrible management going back decades. They’ve created these conditions, it was unnecessary.”

Most of the outages are in the hills ringing the Sacramento Valley and the state’s wine country where Newsom, who made his fortune in the wine business, noted that his wineries are in the midst of grape crushing season and desperate for power.

“I’d rather criticize Donald Trump than act like him, talking about my businesses in Northern California, but we’re in the middle of wine crush and folks are running around trying to get generators right now,” he said. “It’s very consequential.”

PG&E warned its Northern California customers that the blackouts may last until Tuesday, perhaps longer, depending on when the powerful winds subside and how quickly its technicians are able to inspect power lines.

PG&E has been tasked with making its equipment safer after its power lines have been blamed for multiple deadly fires. Newsom says the company needs to move “much more aggressively.”

“We’ve seen some improvement, but even more improvement needs to be done to focus on pole hardening and investing in more modern transmission lines and more modern equipment,” he said. “They have an enormous amount of work to do to I think differentiate their leadership from the past, and be more proactively concerned not just about public safety, but the public interest more broadly, and not just the shareholders’ interest.”

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Sophia Bollag covers California politics and government. Before joining The Bee, she reported in Sacramento for the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times. She grew up in California and is a graduate of Northwestern University.
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