Regulators blame PG&E for neglecting to cut back forest hearth danger – KGET 17

SAN RAMON, Calif. (AP) – California regulators are stepping up their oversight of Pacific Fuel & Electrical after discovering that the nation’s largest utility uncared for upkeep of an influence grid that sparked a sequence of wildfires fatalities in northern California and compelled periodic fires. energy outages affecting thousands and thousands of individuals.

The reprimand delivered Thursday in a unanimous vote by the California Utilities Fee served as an official notification to PG&E that it was not doing sufficient to cut back the danger of a mixture of ruined gear and d ‘overgrown bushes more likely to tip over in close by energy strains.

This is step one in a course of that might doubtlessly lead regulators to revoke PG&E’s utility license in a deal reached final yr when the corporate was bankrupt. This act of economic desperation was sparked by PG&E’s position in a sequence of wildfires in 2017 and 2018 that killed greater than 100 individuals and destroyed greater than 27,000 buildings.

The reprimand raised issues amongst a refrain of PG&E critics that regulators ought to do much more to make sure the utility is extra vigilant in defending the 16 million individuals in its huge service space forward of what ought to. be a very harmful forest hearth season this summer time and falls.

The regulators’ motion got here after an audit discovered the utility’s essential focus final yr was on chopping down bushes round energy strains much less more likely to begin fires as an alternative of sections most in danger. that have been purported to get essentially the most consideration.

In a press release, PG&E stated it has already made enhancements to its tree pruning program and can proceed as a part of its forest hearth prevention efforts this summer time.

“It’s in all of our pursuits to work collectively to enhance our security efficiency for the advantage of our prospects and the communities we’re privileged to serve,” the utility stated.

PG&E should now file a report with the Director Common of the Public Companies Fee, Rachel Peterson, detailing the corrective actions that shall be taken by Could 5, with progress experiences anticipated in August, November and February. If PG&E doesn’t change its strategies, regulators may undergo as much as 5 further steps, together with appointing an impartial monitor, earlier than revoking the utility’s license.

Peterson acknowledged that PG&E’s conduct raised purple flags, however stated there was not but sufficient proof to transcend the measures authorised on Thursday. The motion “holds PG&E accountable and accountable,” Peterson stated on the assembly.

Clifford Rechtschaffen, certainly one of 5 commissioners who voted in favor of the crackdown, referred to as the transfer a wake-up name that the general public service has finest heeded on.

“We have by no means had a course of like this for another utility,” he stated. “This can be a justified course of, given the conduct of PG&E.”

Forward of the vote, a retinue of audio system tore PG&E aside for persisting in negligent conduct that put lives in danger and pushed up electrical energy charges to assist pay for his reckless driving. Many feedback additionally criticized regulators for his or her lax oversight and urged them to instantly revoke PG & E’s “allow to burn”, as some have described it bitterly.

Some critics have been significantly angered that the committee reversed a deliberate vote on whether or not PG&E deserved certification for its wildlife security measures final yr. Regulators have concluded state legislation doesn’t require them to vote on PG&E’s wildlife security certification, regardless that they consider the utility mismanaged its year-round tree pruning program. final.

Critics fear that PG&E is extra concerned with lip service than security.

In a separate continuing, an oversight company of the Utilities Fee recommends that regulators reject the PG&E plan to forestall wildfires this yr. The Public Advocates Workplace additionally cites the utility for pruning bushes and changing gear within the least dangerous areas of its community as an alternative of essentially the most harmful components.

In a report, he criticized PG&E for “weak systematic administration” that places individuals needlessly in danger and a plan that might end in a 20-year wait earlier than its energy grid is absolutely upgraded – a few decade longer. than what the corporate estimated.

In its response, PG&E described the criticism as a narrowly centered evaluation that ignores “the substantial progress, work on wildfire mitigation initiatives and successes which have occurred in 2020”.

The utility highlighted a variety of enhancements and upgrades it revamped the previous yr to cut back the danger of forest fires, in addition to the scope of deliberate energy outages in climate circumstances. harmful.

Throughout its 17-month chapter, PG&E negotiated $ 25.5 billion in settlements to cowl a number of the losses attributable to its previous negligence and pledged to spend round $ 40 billion over the following decade to cut back the danger. that his gear causes extra forest fires.

However the utility continues to be haunted by its previous, in addition to questions on its potential to navigate the highway.

A federal choose overseeing PG&E’s legal probation for a 2010 pure gasoline line explosion that killed eight individuals has repeatedly torn firm administration aside for its ill-suited upkeep practices and is contemplating an order that might drive the utility to intentionally reduce energy extra ceaselessly to cut back the danger of forest fires.

Final week, Sonoma County prosecutors filed legal costs in opposition to PG&E over a large hearth in 2019 blamed on its gear, accusing the usefulness of inadvertently injuring six firefighters and endangering public well being with smoke and ashes.

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This story has been corrected to say {that a} Public Utilities Fee oversight company beneficial regulators reject PG&E’s plan to forestall wildfires this yr in separate proceedings from the vote held on Thursday.


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