The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is the state’s regulatory agency responsible for policing privately owned public utility companies. Because reports of fires occurred simultaneously with reports of electrical issues, the CPUC is investigating whether PG&E is to blame.
The CPUC is specifically looking into whether inadequate maintenance of PG&E’s power infrastructure started the deadly fires. PG&E has been ordered by the CPUC to preserve all electrical equipment related to the string of fires and provide internal communications regarding the electrical issues and fires since Sunday, October 8th. The president of the CPUC has stated the agency will focus on PG&E’s maintenance history.
“PG&E must inform all employees and contractors that they must preserve all electronic (including emails) and non-electronic documents related to potential causes of the fires, vegetation, maintenance and/or tree-trimming,” Elizaveta Malashenko, director of the CPUC’s safety and enforcement division, sent a letter to PG&E ordering it to “preserve all evidence” regarding the fires.
October 2017 Wildfires
Beginning on October 8, 2017, several major wildfires spread through Napa, Sonoma, Butte, Humboldt, Mendocino, and Del Norte Counties, as well as in the areas surrounding Grass Valley and Yuba City.
CAL FIRE is the first responder and determines the sources of ignition of the fires and the way that the fires spread. The CPUC is working closely with CAL FIRE in this investigation and will continue to do so. Further, our Safety and Enforcement Division is conducting investigations to assess the compliance of electric and communication facilities with applicable rules and regulations in fire-impacted areas. Investigation topics include, but are not limited to, maintenance of facilities, vegetation management, and emergency preparedness and response.
On this webpage, you will find CPUC information related to the fires.
● Oct. 30, 2017: CPUC Order Update
CPUC letter to communication companies reminding of the obligation to preserve evidence
● Memorandum of Understanding between the CPUC and CAL FIRE that deals with how the agencies coordinate on response to fires and investigations
Regulations and Information
● General Order 95 contains rules for the design, construction, maintenance, inspection, repair, and replacement of overhead utility facilities, including electric utility facilities, communication facilities, and cable television facilities. General Order 95, Rule 37, Table 1 addresses the above ground clearances of conductors, and the clearances between conductors and other structures/vegetation.