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PG&E is in a tough situation. The failed California energy company is getting hit on both sides with customers complaining about massive forced power outages and state bureaucrats demanding they do something to prevent wildfires. To make matters worse, their CEO’s response to a question about poor people affected by the power outages came across as insensitive and out of touch with the needs of the people.
When asked about what people should do to replace food that spoiled as a result of the power outages, people who cannot afford to replenish their supplies, CEO William D. Johnson attempted to empathize with people who are in tough situations, but judging by responses, his recommendation for people have “community based things you can do, food banks, these kinds of things,” didn’t hit the mark.
#PGE's CEO tells people who can't afford to restock food spoiled by blackouts to use food banks, and "we didn't burn down any houses … One of the things we did was give them the opportunity to actually refill their refrigerator 'cause their house is still there." #ABC7now pic.twitter.com/U7eeHQFJX8
— Dan Noyes (@dannoyes) November 1, 2019
To some extent, he’s correct. His company’s responsibility was to help prevent wildfires that can destroy homes and in that regard, the power outages may or may not have done this. It’s impossible to prove a negative even with evidence of absence, but considering the high winds and reduced fires started at these times, it may have been effective. However, both PG&E as well as the state of California should have had a plan in place to handle the other repercussions such as food spoilage.
That’s not to say PG&E should be responsible for filling up refrigerators, but they should definitely have established partners ahead of time to meet those needs if required. There are plenty of emergency response agencies, whether charitable or public, that could have been made ready to assist. Imagine if, instead of telling people to go to food banks, Johnson said people should call a particular phone number for a particular organization that was prepared to assist those affected by the planned blackouts. He and his company wouldn’t have been nearly as lambasted by the public over it as they have been.
This is a challenge we’ve seen all-too-often in California. It’s as if the state has a phobia against proper planning and anticipating negative effects to their actions. William D. Johnson, his company, and the state didn’t consider the repercussions at all.
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