Pacific Gas & Electric named a slate of new directors on Wednesday, a move it was forced to make by Gov. Gavin Newsom of California as the company looks to resolve its bankruptcy.
All but three of the 14 appointees will be new to the board, and six are Californians. The members will fill their positions on or before the company exits bankruptcy, which is expected this summer.
PG&E filed for bankruptcy protection in January last year after amassing $30 billion in liability for wildfires started by its equipment. The most devastating of those fires, the Camp Fire in 2018, killed scores of people and destroyed the town of Paradise. The company has agreed to plead guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with that fire.
Mr. Newsom demanded that PG&E appoint a new board, replace its chief executive, improve safety policies and make other changes to qualify to take part in a $20 billion wildfire fund that will help utilities cover the cost of future fires. PG&E has already replaced its chief executive.
If the company does not comply with all of the state’s requirements, it may not be able to secure the financing it needs for its bankruptcy plan because of investor concerns that it could again become overwhelmed by wildfire liabilities and other debts.
Nathan Click, a spokesman for Mr. Newsom, said the governor felt that the board selection met the state’s requirements.
“Throughout the bankruptcy, the governor has stressed the need for fundamental transformation of this utility so it can provide its customers with safe, reliable, affordable and clean power,” Mr. Click said. “Consistent with these goals, the state required that the company’s new board of directors be independent of Wall Street hedge funds, primarily comprised of Californians with deep expertise on safety and operational change.”
The new directors include several energy industry executives, including a former chief executive of Dynegy, a utility in the Midwest; a former senior executive at Sempra Energy; and a former president of National Grid. They also include a former administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Craig Fugate, and a retired Navy admiral, Mark Ferguson.
Nora Mead Brownell, the board’s current chair, said she believed the new board “is a critical component of PG&E’s plan to emerge from bankruptcy as a reimagined utility.”
The returning members are Cheryl Campbell, a former vice president at Xcel Energy; Bill Smith, interim chief executive officer of PG&E Corporation; and John Woolard, chief executive of Meridian Energy and senior partner at Activate Capital.
PG&E is awaiting final approval of its reorganization plan by Judge Dennis Montali in United States Bankruptcy Court. His decision is expected by the end of the month.