by Chris White
Recent history might explain why Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom is lashing out at the public utility company responsible for rolling blackouts in his state as citizens wrestle with increasing gas prices.
California’s public utility Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) began a days-long power shutoff to curb the risk of wildfires in the northern part of the state. Newsom, the former mayor of San Francisco, is dealing with several problems as he struggles with PG&E’s move.
“What’s happened is unacceptable. And it’s happened because of neglect,” he said at a news conference Thursday, referring to the decision to shutter power across the state. “This current operation is unacceptable. The current conditions and circumstances are unacceptable.”
A previous Democratic governor in the state to confront similar blackouts was recalled in the early 2000s.
Former Democratic Gov. Gray Davis of California was recalled in 2003 after increasing the state’s car registration fees and for the perception that he didn’t do enough to forestall rolling blackouts across the state. Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger won the election November of that year.
California’s blackouts at the time hurt many businesses that were dependent upon a reliable supply of electricity. Newsom is also confronting blackouts, though his situation is considerably different from the one Davis faced.
Thousands of people have lost power in California as PG&E enacted preemptive shutoffs, a move the bankrupt public utility thought would prevent potential wildfires. The company pursued bankruptcy protection in January after its CEO stepped down after fallout from the utility’s wildfire debt.
Investigators determined PG&E’s power lines and converters sparked at least a dozen major fires in 2017. California officials are still investigating the causes of several major 2018 fires, including the Camp Fire that killed 86 people and all but destroyed the town of Paradise.
PG&E is also still dealing with the taint of being convicted of violating safety regulations in 2016 after one of its natural gas lines exploded.
Wildfires are still reeking havoc in the state despite PG&E’s best efforts. California officials ordered the evacuation of roughly 100,000 people from their homes Friday as a wildfire plows through the northern edge of Los Angeles.
Newsom, for his part, took over $200,000 from PG&E to help buttress his 2018 run for governor, ABC 10 reported in July. The company allegedly gave $58,400 to his campaign and another $150,000 to a group called Citizens Supporting Gavin Newsom for Governor 2018.
The blackouts won’t help the governor’s already poor standing in the polls.
The Public Policy Institute of California found in a September survey that more likely voters disapprove of Newsom’s job performance than approve, with 43% approving, 44% disapproving and 13% who didn’t know. Nearly 15% of Californians who were surveyed listed “homelessness” as a top concern and 11% named housing, both of which are big problems aside from high gas prices and electricity outages. The survey was conducted between Sept. 16 and 25 among 1,705 adult California residents with a margin of error at ±3.2%, but varied among subgroups of the poll.
To make matters worse, the price of a gallon of gas in California is slowly increasing. The average cost in the state has skyrocketed to $4.18 while drivers in other areas are paying as much as $5 per gallon, CNN Business reported Tuesday. California’s gas taxes are already some of the highest in the country, so the price increases are a double-whammy.
Newsom has not responded to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s multiple requests for comment. A response will be added should one be received.
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Chris White is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.
Photo “Gavin Newsom” by Gavin Newsom.