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tv   KQED Newsroom  PBS  January 20, 2019 5:00pm-5:30pm PST

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tonight on questioned om news four weeks and counting. we'll look at how the longestdo sh in the nation's history is facting californians. also utility giant pg & e is fanning to file for bankruptcy what it means customers, clean energy goals and victims of wildfirs. hello and welcome to newsroom. i'm thuy vu. on wednesdayancy pelosi asked the president to delay his tate of theunion. she said without reopening the government seere would be rity concerns. president trump isn't budging from plans to deliverhis address this month. the trump administration disast
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money to therd boer wall. that could affect repairs and flood control projects in california. joining is john g maramenidi who serves on the infrastructure committee. nice to have yo back. >> good to be with you. i wanted to ask you about the zz rt at asserting that presidentcrump aresss form la ut trump's role in a negotiation to build a skyscraper in moscow. what are your thoughts on that? >> well, everybody says, if true, it is a crime and therefore it's an impeachae offense. it happens to be the same ffense that richard nixon committed, and ultimately was impeached, though he was not tried ien en obruction of justice, very,
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very simple. if it is true -- we're going to find out. along.moving the mueller investigation is moving along. now that the democrat versus subpoena power, wee find out. you're saying if true, it rises to the level of obstructionf justice, will you be calling for impeachment proceedings? >> i think the will be a outcry for impeachment proceedings, both as a result of the mueller investigation, which may have this information, or the result of subpoenas and other testimony before congress. apparently there's backup information to this charge. we'll see, and it's probably not very far away. why suggest probably in a couple months we may know what it's all about. >> is this something you would support or call for? >> if ts is true absolutely. this is an impeachable offense. >> i wanted to ask about the government shutdown. president trump did not embrace
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a government proposal to funde government for three weeks, th allow time for negotiations. on the side, house speaker has called the wall immoral. is ther point?forward at this >> absolutely. we o mustn up government. we have passed nine pieces of legislation in the last two weeks, since january 3rd, for the purposes of opening up government. all or part of it we've even gone just last yesterday with anoer piece of legislation that would give until february 28th, opening government. why? so that there would be time to negotiate. so there wou be time to negotiate. this is and has been a very serious problem. we're seeing the american economy takes a severe hit. we're seeing 800,000 federal employees, and who knows how manyrs contrac losing the opportunity to have a paycheck and the t contractorshave their contracts. i have situations here in the sacramento area. i have ctor that is don't
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know what they're going to do, because they're small and they're going out of business as a result of this. open up this government. this is an ssueere mitch mcconnell has got to lead and not be a puppet to trump. >> butoth sides ha dug in hair heels, right? won't backnt said he away from the money he wants for the border wall form the e're nots are saying giving you that money. what will be the tipping point for this to get resolved? like you said, so many people e impacted. >> open up the government. take up any one of those nine bills that are stting on the senate floor. senator mcconnell and the republicans have aortunity to put it on the president's desk. we've been very clear, open up the government and we'll talk about what we're going to oo. we'fered -- in fact, in t congress, before thehe christma break, $1.6 billion for border security. then the president at the very
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ast moment manded a day or twe wanted 5.7 billion without any be built, what h is n purpose wouldow be, it would solve problems. we know we have to be smart with taxpayer money. open up this government. we know there's some parts of ene border fence hthbeavat il to be repaired. but it is unconscionable that the presidentu dld the federal employe and all of the contractors hoage, is but being held hostage for his campaign >> how do you think california will fare in all of this? heyre tesh pre tatenirngt to diy from the army th monerpy has a been approved for projects are ? >> this is something that --' y going to do what, mr. president? you're going to declare a nationalem gency?
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you're going to go to the civil works program of the army cor of engineers, which we have put about 15 billi$15 billion for d relief. and 2.5 billion of that are for california, specific flood protection, in the south bay of san francisco bay. we're talki about the cupertino area. san jose ing about the area, all of that. sea level is coming up. we know that s icramento the most flood-prone area in amca. than 2 million people at risk. small cities like marysville, 17,000 people, just $13 million, but that was absolutely critical money on a city that literally is surrounded by 35-foot levees. >> what will happen if they projects are delayed or canceled? >> i just drove up the sacramento river to get here from my home, down in the delta.
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the sacramento river is flowing full right no wi they projects make a difference this winter? no, but these projects would be under way next winter, next summer. not so many months away and they would providedditional protection. will it make a difference? we don't know, but it could make all the difference between a horrible flood or no flood at in puerto rico, another $2.5 billion to shore up the levees and dams in the area that were totally destroyed 2 i1/t2i is s unconscionable that the president would reach out and take away that money. >> how s is the president at thisioer point about this th that he's making. >> we've backed him do a bit, but nonetheless he's kept alive the threat at he hasthe power to issue a national emergency, and based upon the laws o the books, which frankly should be
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hanged, and i have introduc legislation to change those laws, he could dip into the civ>> works. ll right. >> he could also dip into the u.s. military's military construction projects. we have torein in his power, not just this way, but also with theational emergencies. >> john garamendi, congressman from sacramento valley, thank you for your time. >> thank you. thank you. on monday, pg & e declared it would file for bankruptcy protection at the end of the month. the utility sis it featses $30 million in liability costs from wildfires. the company said, quote,e do not expect any impact of servoue to customers. tock prices have declined sharply when themp ca for that fire broke out some fire victims blame pg & e and have already filed lawsuits.an the co is already on probation for violating federal
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safety rules when one of the gas pipelines exploded and killed eighteople in san bruno. pg & e did not respond to our request to appear on the program. joining us to discuss the issue is california state senator jerry hale. thank you so much for being here. yoere one of th what is your reaction about this? >> i was shocked, but not surprised. they have a cash flow problem. hey need to work through that. by declaringbankruptcy, itrefle it. >> but they are >> they are, and they have a lot ts,tney and ceur so buywe hedon't know what those liabilities will be for the fires of2018 yet. we're pretty clear on the 2017 ones, but nothe 018 ones.
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utilityhow to look at a in california at the end of thee a bailout plan? >> no, absolutely not. i didn't vote for one last year and wouldn't vote for one today. they don't deserve a payout. the rate payers should not be stuck with tha liability. >> what will bet? >> the bail jowl will greater rates and higherec rate on all of us going forward. what we have to do is make sure that the shareholders are -- that itself o withli ility. there are ways of doing that, but pg & e comes to the lecture and says two choices, bankruptcy or thbailout. e are other options and choices. in fact, they produced one they had a back-door -- behind closed door solution to this
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problem last year at the same time they were negotiati with thelegislature. they had a plan to cover the cost, but they didn't tell anyone about it. >> so you've already said you don't think this should be a bailout. what's the best path forward? >> i think what we have to lk at are restructuring the company. the legislature lastear said they were too big to fail. i fail they're too bill to proceed. y have a gas and electric division, which will give them into a position and a sigh that's more manageable, something they can workith and not as cumbersome as it has been. i think that's the first step. also, change the management of the company. it's not been a good management effort and team, change the board of directors to really change the culture of pg & e. what we want is a utility that rovides a safe, reliable service at a reasonable rate. they faileds. >> you seem to be saying you would support all this restructuring and let them stay
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private. do you think theul state sh take over pg & e? >> the state probably not take over the utility, but perhaps there'scould do it. san francisco is right now talking about tang over the pg & e distribution system within the city. other citiestareing about it as well. >> what about wildfire victes? re suing, they're concerned that a m bankruptcy mayn they're not entitled to the claims that they are etitled to. >> going back many years ago there was the asbestos me setts, the bankruptcies that were involved there. trust fences established. we could do the same with fire victims. at the end of the day, the public utilities commission will have to approve any bankruptcy settlements or restructuring. that will give us and the state and the puc an opportunity to
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structure that in a way to protect those victims. >> is that something you'll pu for? >> definitely. ratepayers and victims are the most important pt of any settlement we have to deal with. >> pg & e declared bankruptcy once before in 2001. what did lawmakers learn from that situation that could be apied now? >> i think two things. pg & e was goring wit the governor at the time in 2001. they were looking to find a settlement and the governor said at the time what a slap in the face that was. is you have learned can't really trust pg & e in the negotiations, andtwo, you have to be able to have a public utilities commission and memberships of that commission who are honest and who are looking out for the ratepayers' best interest. back then we didn't have that.
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i would call it an incest out relationship back then, and that pretty much gave them everything they wanted, which cost us a lot more. >> but also there were phoblems whe withcpu c'spg & e even after tho zambuno eon that happened in your district. >> absolutely. >> we startedng learbout very cozy relationships. >> very cozy.ec that'sse the same people that were there in 2001 were still there. >> do you have more trust now? >> i have greater they're good, honest people and they're putting the interests of the public at heart. that's critical. >> how would you hope that governorewsom handle this? he's barely in office. >> so far i think he's done a great job. he'stepped back, evaluating everything, not making any rash decisions, and we have find out what pg & e going to do?
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will theye actually fr not? >> state senator jerry hill, thank you so much for being here. >> thank you. it was a pleasure. pge & serves about 16 million customers square miles. while it's unlikely the lights will go out, you could eventually pay more for the power. it could also jeopardizes the state's green goals. but investing heavily in solar and wind projects may now be out of reach for the trunld utility. joining mess join us is, and severin boren stein, ando lore lynch, a former president of the california public utility commission, the state agent taske with regulating. welcome to you all. lisa, letn 'be withu. byonk
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inevitable, or could a plan prevent that? >> we could see a plan like that. the state could step in, or the administration or al pg & e could decide not to filed, which seems we've also seen shareholder activity in the lastweek. one hedge fund wrote a protest letter, says t bankruptcy is unnecessary. >> loretta, how unlikely is the scenario? pg and e says it has no choice but to do th becau a wildfire liabilities and other liabilities from climate change, wft do you make the company's statement? >> it's absolutely pg & e's strategic choice to perhaps file for bankruptcy in order to leverage the state, the policymakers and get as much money as they can out of the r ratepa pockets. this doesn't need to happen. >> why do you say that?
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>> pg & e has plenty of money. they're talking about things that haven't been assessed yet, and there's plenty of money to keep the lights on. this is a strategic corporate choice by a corporation that has proven it is out of control. >> what is the role of th california public utilities commission here. you used to be the president. is it possibly to blame, because it is the agency responsible for overseeing the gency? >> absolutely they're partly to blame. the puc has been way too cozy and let corporations get away with way too much. mostly the puc has failed in the central job, which is to keep the system safe, topranotect t >> what do you think they should do now, given the plan that pg and e has decred? >> the puc is an integral part
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the reorganization. they cannot emerge from the bankruptcy, unless the puc proves of thedeal. that's why it's so critical the puc is aligned with the new administration >>professor, there are some environmental implications here as well. california h ambitious plans to transfer to 33% renewable energy sources by 2020. pg & e is the larger investor in infrastructure for energy efficiency, for electric vehicles. how will this plan to declare bankruptcy affect l of that? >> i think regardless of whether they declare bankruptcy, pg & e ill be veryistracted over the next few years with the lawsuits and dealing with fires. so this going to be a major distraction. iop talked to in the company who are working on those environmental initiatives. that that's firme just not where the focus is right now. they're worried about what to do
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in the n week over the financial issues. this is going to be a much more ptmplex bank than we saw during the california electricity crisis. >>ack in 2001. >> back in 2001. now we're faced with a lot of choices on how to moved forw from here that really weren't up discussed them. no one was talking converting the utility to publicly owned or breaking it up into smaller now we are talking about those, and i think that would be a central part of the discussion through thisy. bankrup >> can you give us a snapshot of the potenpal e effect to other clean energy sources that do business with pg and e? how big a market is that and how could this bankruptcy affect those providers? >> we're nearly at 33% renewable energy headed to 50% by 2030. there are a lot of providers that have long-term contract
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with pg & e. that's a play age bankruptcy j would try to harvest money from. so this will have a ripple effect throughout the renewable community. if they have to transfer money, ais bankruptcy judge looking to harvest money for a certain set of creditors. that's their primarygoal. that's not how the company runs or theto reguis run, so really it changes the focus away from thale state and more towards simply moving money around.>> would like to respectfully disagree with my good friend veren. i see several parallels. both of them are corporate strategic ochoices, be able to leverage state policymakers and get every single penny they possibly can from the ratepayer. senator john burton, the head of
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the senate ten argued we need add dollar for a hot dog. if we were goi to pay a dallas we should get a hot dog. that wasn't ed by the davis administration then. i certainly hope the new on seriously considers all options. frankly it's time to get the private profit tiering pg & e corporate executive out of the picture and spend those profits on the victims. en i think one of the things that's also diff than in 2001 ispg & e is a convicted felon. >> from the san bruno explosion. >> they're under a coott order to commit any more crimes. there will be a hearing two weeks to see whether some of fires, what's going on there? he's already issued an ordeat tr electrical lines andr see whet they are safe right now.
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>> lisa has an important point. this is an order to shca e. what it does is key and critical. right now the probation conditions ofon thected flob, pg & e corporation, only addressed the gas system. the judge is saying for the first time he going to add probation conditions th address the electrical system, the transmission how they respond and whether they agree or whether they fight, will be a critical piece of information we should all assess in terms of their willingness to step up, take responsibility and do the right thing, orir tontinued rogue actions as a corporation that >enies responsibility at every turn. where do you see all of this going, right? back in 2001, that bankruptcy deal resulted in a bailout pack package where ratepayers were
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saddle with a higher rate. do you think they'll be protected at this time? >> no, first of all there isn't enough money to cover all of that liability. some of this will get get pushed off somewhere. itould be paid by the government. it could be foisted on the pele who boar the losses. i think the easiest thing political is to push it off on rankpayers. i t it's very unlikely that rateayers will c through it unscathed. shareholdersill certainly lose a lot of money, probably all of their money and we'll have there larger debate, regardless of the actions of pg and e. what is the right way of rical ze are our ele system, given the increasing wildfire risks? >> what are the challenges with ad publicly ow utility? >> it's time. time for the state to seriously take a look at th mechanisms that would be necessary to take
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it over. the ed the profit out system. it's not a radical idea. every state in the uni has public utilities. even california has 22, the biggest of which are sacramentoh 're not perfect -- >> i'm not sure i would agree. i think there's very good public utilities, but also good investor-owned utilities. i do agree with loretta we should be considering that alternative, particularly in light of the much greater regulation that would be required on the side, considered the risk, this used to be a s dustry widows and orph invested in, because the investments were so reliable. that's not the cse anymore. i think we have to consider alternative forms of utilities. >> how much risk do you think there is of other utilities and nesses across the country
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facing this kind of stress of climate change? >> i think it differ regionally. california, clearly the drought in other areas it's hurricanes.. floods, coastal flooding. all of thesetht. derwi wlli be wile fires a is that the wildfire may start because a utility action, unlike a hurricane, and therefore there's this question of how much of that they are then responble or. to the extent they are held responsible for the entire damage of it, that is more than the value of the firm. whereas when we've seen problems with the hurricanes and utilities, they were just blamed for theall joy. >> going impact to your earlier point, where you're not sure if it's better to have to have a public utilities, investor-owneo is a c model, but why don't
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they have the same problems that pg & e has? >> i think there's a lot of questions about infrastructure and maintenance. there's no question that & e does have eas of california tha heart to get to and are more fire-prone. there are more people living in th areas. whether there is a fire, the fires are more wdeadly. ve seen that in the north bay and during the camp fire. hour, pg & e, they are convicted felons, and they've had issue thughout the year. i think that climate change is certainly a part of this, but whether pg & e is maintaini their lines, that's part of the equation. >> i really disagree we should let pg & e off the hok because of claim change. if that were two, our other utilities woul have similar problems with the ban/rural
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interface. the only utilities with the catastrophes anly utility that's choosing to declare bankruptcy is pg & e. there are some good utilities that maintain their systems and protect customers. pg & e has lost the truth of california. we will leave it there. lisla ver, and severen, thank you all. that will do it for us. as always you can fi more of our coverage at kwed.org. thank you for joining us. i'm thuy vu. ♪
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