WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Wednesday introduced the Accountability for Utility Executives Act, legislation to ensure that publicly-traded utility companies going through bankruptcy cannot reward their executives with bonuses or trips. This year in California, utility companies have left millions of people up and down the state without power in order to avoid sparking wildfires and to limit their own legal and financial liability.
“Years of corporate negligence and misplaced priorities by energy utilities like PG&E have caused devastating fires and costly blackouts—which is exactly what happens when publicly traded utilities put corporate profits and stock prices above their customers and public safety,” said Harris. “My commonsense bill will make sure executives of bankrupt utility companies won’t be rewarded with big bonuses and free trips after their failures leave millions of people without essential services like power or water. These companies should serve the people, not plunge them into darkness or cause a massive wildfire—and they shouldn’t cash in after years of systemic failures.”
In January, PG&E—which provides electricity to approximately 16 million people in Northern California—filed for bankruptcy protection after state regulators determined its equipment had sparked 17 wildfires in 2017, raising the possibility that PG&E would face tens of billions of dollars of liability.
In June, PG&E announced plans to give its top executives nearly $11 million in bonuses, which a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge later halted. Last month, mere days before beginning to shut off customers’ power throughout Northern California, PG&E sent nearly a dozen employees to a winery on the company dime—in the same county where two years earlier PG&E power poles caused deadly wildfires that forced thousands of families to evacuate.
The full bill text is available here.