Utilities lobby to limit liability
Campaign donations, talks with lawmakers raise credibility issues
NEW YORK TIMES
LOS ANGELES — As California’s deadliest wildfire was consuming the town of Paradise in November, some of the state’s top utility executives and a dozen legislators were at an annual retreat at the Fairmont Kea Lani resort on Maui. In the course of four days, they discussed wildfires — and how much responsibility the power companies deserve for the devastation, if any.
It is an issue of increasing urgency as more fires are traced to equipment owned by California’s investor-owned utilities. The largest, Pacific Gas and Electric, could ultimately have to pay homeowners and others an estimated $30 billion for causing fires over the past two years. The most devastating of those, the Camp fire, destroyed thousands of homes in Paradise and killed at least 86 people.
Devastating Wildfires Force California’s Largest Utility To Plan Sale Of Gas Assets
Facing staggering liability costs for its potential culpability in a series of deadly wildfires, the parent company of California’s largest utility is exploring whether to sell off a major part of the company, NPR has learned.
Internally, Pacific Gas & Electric has dubbed this strategy “Project Falcon.” Under the plan, the company would sell its natural gas division this spring. After years of deadly errors and safety violations, the utility giant is looking for ways to cover liability costs and avoid bankruptcy, a senior company official and a former employee with knowledge of the plan tell NPR.
All net proceeds from the sale of PG&E’s gas division would be used to set up a fund to pay billions of dollars in potential claims from wildfires, the sources said. They requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
PG&E reportedly could face murder charges for deadly Camp Fire
PARADISE, Calif. (KGO) –Pacific Gas & Electric could face potential criminal charges as serious as murder in the deaths of 86 people who died during last month’s Camp Fire in Butte County.
KXTV reports the revelation came from a brief from the California attorney general’s office asking a federal judge to weigh in on the potential criminal charges in the fire.
The official cause of the fire is still under investigation, but the utility discovered damaged equipment at the suspected ignition site of the fire.
The fire was the deadliest and most destructive in the state’s history.
PG&E admits equipment failure and it had worn equipment at fire origin
PG&E workers found damaged tower and bullet holes near Camp Fire origin site
(CNN) A California utility company said its crews found a damaged transmission tower and holes in a power pole at separate locations near the site where the Camp Fire started. More than a month after the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in the state’s history broke out, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. released a more detailed account of outages it experienced that day. In a letter to the California Public Utilities Commission, PG&E said one of its employees called 911 on November 8 — the day the deadly wildfire began — after spotting flames in the vicinity of a high-voltage tower near the town of Pulga in Butte County. That fire was reported almost 15 minutes after the utility experienced a transmission line outage at the same location, the company said. It was also around the same time the Camp Fire broke out.
Principles for Utility Regulation in the Face of Increasing Wildfire Risk
Catherine J.K. Sandoval
Catherine J.K. Sandoval is an associate professor at Santa Clara University School of Law and a former commissioner of the California Public Utilities Commission. Views are her own.
As our state faces the present consequences of climate change, years of drought, and devastating wildfires, it is our legal and ethical duty to consider new approaches to manage utility infrastructure. Utility poles that line our streets and highways tether our homes, businesses, and schools to electricity, telecommunications, and Internet service that powers our economy and way of life. Yet, violations of California’s utility pole safety rules too often linger in plain sight for months, if not years. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is charged with ensuring that companies under its jurisdiction provide safe, reliable service, at just and reasonable rates, consistent with environmental standards. The ferocity and scale of wildfires associated with utility infrastructure since 2017 demand new approaches to protect public safety and forestall climate change.
Displaced evacuees will soon have trailers at Rolling Hills Casino
CORNING, Calif. — It’s been almost a month since the deadly Camp Fire began, but many evacuees are still living in RV’s across the Northstate including some at Rolling Hills Casino, like Gwen Nordgren.
She’s staying at the casino’s RV park with her dog and daughter’s family just two spaces away.
She says she knows her entire family lost their homes in Paradise.
Paradise business owners fearful “The Ridge” will lose it’s charm, SBA offering assistance
PARADISE, Calif. — The Paradise and Chico Chamber of Commerce in collaboration with the Small Business Administration hosted a disaster assistance meeting on Thursday for victims of the Camp Fire. The purpose of the meeting was to provide business owners with information on how they can apply for assistance with the SBA to keep their businesses afloat in the wake of the Camp Fire.
Many business owners were in attendance to get more information about the future of their businesses and how they are going to survive economically.
Federal judge demands answers from PG&E on cause of Camp Fire
According to the Sac Bee, a federal judge overseeing PG&E’s criminal probation following the deadly San Bruno pipeline explosion is demanding answers from PG&E about its role in the Camp Fire or other major wildfires.
In the written order, U.S. District Judge William Alsup told PG&E to “provide an accurate and complete statement of the role, if any, of PG&E in causing and reporting the recent Camp Fire in Butte County and all other wildfires in California since the judgement herein”.
The order added, “What specific steps has the monitor herein taken to monitor and improve PG&E safety and reporting with respect to power lines and wildfires?”.