PG&E Ordered To Inspect All Territory For Trees, Equipment That Could Cause Wildfires

January 10, 2019 10:00 am · 13 comments

A federal judge on Wednesday tentatively ordered PG&E Co. to inspect its entire electrical service area and remove or trim any trees and repair any damaged transmission equipment that could cause wildfires.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup will hold a Jan. 30 hearing to decide whether to go ahead with the order.

He invited representatives of Cal Fire and the California Public Utilities Commission to attend the hearing, in addition to PG&E and federal prosecutors.

Alsup is overseeing the utility’s probation in a criminal case in which the utility was convicted of violating federal pipeline safety rules and obstructing justice in a probe of a fatal natural gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno in 2010.

Alsup wrote that the purpose of his proposed order is “to protect the public from further wrongs by the offender” and to “reduce to zero the number of wildfires caused by PG&E in the 2019 wildfire season.”

The season runs from June 21 to the first region-wide rainstorm in November or December.

The judge noted that Cal Fire has determined that San Francisco-based PG&E caused 18 wildfires in its northern and central California service areas in 2017. The agency is still investigating the cause of the devastating 2018 Camp Fire in Butte County that killed 86 people.

The proposed order would allow PG&E to supply electricity during the wildfire season only in areas determined to be safe under the wind conditions then prevailing. Power would be shut off in areas not determined to be safe under such winds.

Alsup wrote, “This will likely mean having to interrupt service during high-wind events (and possibly at other times) but that inconvenience, irritating as it will be, will pale by comparison to the death and destruction that otherwise might result from PG&E-inflicted wildfire.”

PG&E spokesman James Noonan said, “We are aware of Judge Alsup’s orders and are currently reviewing.

“We are committed to complying with all rules and regulations that apply to our work, while working together with our state and community partners and across all sectors and disciplines to develop comprehensive, long-term safety solutions for the future,” Noonan said in a statement.

Fred January 10, 2019 at 10:46 AM

They are already doing that, at least in my area. They are cutting trees back. There is some back lash from those who don’t want their trees cut. There is also a line on the form that you will be responsible for the fire caused by your trees.

WC January 10, 2019 at 10:57 AM

But this work will cost money and impact shareholder value and company executive bonuses!!! We’re getting so taken by PG&E it’s pathetic, even the rates are way higher than other parts of the state.

Break ’em down. They work for shareholders not the rate payers!

Ricardoh January 10, 2019 at 11:22 AM

Pretty much what Moonbeam vetoed a couple of years ago. Moonbeam is partial responsible for the 86 Paradise deaths but walks around like a holy man.

Cellophane January 10, 2019 at 11:54 AM

Electric rates will be going up again.

What a big mistake allowing PG&E to go private.

We’ll never finish paying for that mistake.

Fred P. January 11, 2019 at 5:03 PM

PG&E has always been a private company (ie, owned by the shareholders).yes, it’s a “public utility” but owned by the shareholders.

Cowellian January 11, 2019 at 5:39 PM

Uh, not exactly.
A private company is owned by an individual, family, or itself.
A public company is owned by shareholders and its stock is publicly traded.

Fred P. January 11, 2019 at 7:27 PM

The point is, it’s never been private .

Noj January 10, 2019 at 12:14 PM

Uh oh.
PG & E says this rate hike proposal was finalized in May 2018, BEFORE the Camp Fire in Paradise caused it’s stock to lose HALF it’s value.
You get it now? How are they going to pay those extravagant pensions now? That’s right, YOU make up the difference.

“PG&E’s Forecasts Were Prepared Before the Camp Fire
Due to the lead time necessary to run the Results of Operations model and finalize the presentation of this case, PG&E completed our forecasts in
May 2018, apart from the CWSP and Human Resources benefits forecast, which were completed in October 2018. PG&E’s plans are thus based on the information available at those times. Since then, the devastating Camp Fire has changed PG&E’s expected workplan for 2018 and 2019 and caused additional financial uncertainty for the Company.”

Original G January 10, 2019 at 12:19 PM

“to protect the public from further wrongs by the offender”

If within scope of CPUC (California public utilities commission) had they already give PG&E a similar order ?

There should be a LONG HARD look at PG&E management and maintenance practices an determine if changes were made in efforts to increase shareholder profits.

The Fractionator January 10, 2019 at 1:13 PM

Shouldn’t they already be doing that as per their Inspection Procedures for overhead transmission lines? I would bet they have inspection procedures but haven’t followed them like like they didn’t follow the Piping Inspection Plans in the 2010 San Bruno fire and falsified documentation and drawings.

Kirkwood January 10, 2019 at 2:23 PM

I hope PG&E expedites the inspection of every foot of power lines over the next few years. There is newer technology and well paying jobs for qualified people. Lines and fixtures that move with temperature changes or the wind have to be re-engineered, And also reduce metal fatigue. The maintenance that we didn’t pay for in the past will be added to what will pay in the future. PG&E should be a non-profit district like CCWD or CCCSD.
As for the Camp Fire, who could have predicted 50 mph winds from the east and an unknowingly dry forest in November? We’ve almost always had rain by then. The people around Paradise are victims of unforeseen circumstances. The town is smaller than Pleasant Hill and without much money. The surrounding area has several subdivisions on large lots hidden in the forest, occupied by retired folks and people who dislike the hustle and bustle of the city.
A former co-worker lives a few hundred yards from the fire line.

ConcordMike January 11, 2019 at 8:07 AM

They need to implement a program like “Call Before You Dig”. But this one should be “Call to Report Wires Near Vegetation”. More eyes the better.

Paul January 11, 2019 at 9:28 AM

All utilities deal with downed power lines, but in California we have desert dry wind storms which start fires.Cal Fire states PGE lines started 18 fires last year. There were over 8500 wildfires total last year and like amounts years before. So what or who started all those other fires! Face it California is burning up due to drought, hot weather, and destructive summer and fall Diablo winds. Piling on PGE is making the situation worse and we will all pay like last time under deregulation.The lawyers will get much of that money everyone wants PGE to pay. PGE soon won’t have enough cash on hand to buy power and gas supplies.Rolling blackouts are coming . If this crazy law of inverse condemnation is not repealed or amended this will happen every year, that is why only 2 states in the entire country have such a law. No utility in the world can operate under this financial ,legal stress. The state or another investor doesn’t want to assume such massive liabilities in the future so it’s easy to pile on PGE. Big mistake.We will all pay.The lawyers are laughing all the way to the bank. Municipalities don’t want to assume the liabilities, if they took over PGE either. PGE has delivered reliable energy for 100 years. What we hope to replace it with may not be better. It could be worse however.

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