Campaign donations, talks with lawmakers raise credibility issues




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.

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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.

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BUTTE COUNTY (KRON) – A lawsuit has been filed Tuesday against PG&E on behalf of victims impacted by the Camp Fire that devastated Butte County.

The lawsuit alleges that PG&E failed to maintain it’s equipment resulting in the deadly fire.

The fire has destroyed 7,102 structures, threatened 15,500 structures, and left 150,000 people without a home.

The victims suffered injuries and lost their homes and businesses in the fire, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that PG&E has a long history of “safety lapses that caused injury and death to California residents, and destroyed or damaged their property” citing the 2010 San Bruno gas explosion, 2017 North Bay Fires and other incidents.

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By Bay City News Service

PG&E officials said more than 38,000 customers in the North Bay and Sierra Foothills had their power restored as of 9:30 p.m. Monday night. They said they expect to restore power for all customers by Tuesday, but did not have specific times.

Earlier they said they expected to restore power by midnight on Tuesday to 70 percent of the customers in several counties after power was turned off Sunday night to reduce wildfire risks in conditions that are dry, windy and with low humidity.

At around 4:30 p.m. Lake County Sheriff said Middletown and Hidden Valley Lake had their power turned back on, followed by Kelseyville but portions of Clearlake are still without.

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Two sagging Pacific Gas and Electric Co. power lines made contact and ignited a blaze last year that killed four people and injured a firefighter in Northern California, fire officials said Tuesday about the latest wildfire to be blamed on power lines.

Strong winds caused the lines to touch, creating an electrical arc that sent molten material onto dry vegetation below, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

The blaze in Yuba County that started on Oct. 8, 2017, scorched 15 square miles and destroyed 264 structures.

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It’s a question worth billions of dollars: How did California’s most destructive wildfire start?

One year after the Tubbs fire burst from a spark and became a wind-driven inferno, thousands of people who lost homes as well as relatives of the 22 people killed are still waiting to learn what caused the wildfire that upended their lives.

Cal Fire has concluded PG&E power lines and equipment sparked 16 of the 18 fires that broke out Oct. 8 and 9 across Northern California. Investigators handed reports for 11 of those fires — including the Atlas fire that killed six people in Napa County — to local prosecutors, who will review evidence asserting the utility company hadn’t followed safety laws and was criminally negligent.

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SAN FRANCISCO — Fire officials say a downed Pacific Gas and Electric Co. power line ignited a blazed in Marin County that prompted mandatory evacuation.
The Marin County Fire Department said Wednesday the 150-acre blaze at Samuel P. Taylor State Park was 65 percent contained.The department says many residents are still without power but that it should be restored by Wednesday evening.

The blaze that started Monday quickly spread but cool weather has helped fire crews contain it.

Fire investigators have blamed PG&E equipment for 12 of last year’s deadly wildfires in Wine Country.

PG&E is facing dozens of lawsuits from insurers, which have spent billions settling insurance claims from homeowners.

The wildfires that brought horror to Northern California nearly a year ago led to some unusual political alliances and rifts among lawmakers as their response came to a momentous vote on a controversial measure that holds both PG&E and ratepayers responsible for multibillion-dollar damages.

Approval by the Assembly and Senate late Friday night — on the final day of the legislative session — came nearly 11 months after the historic wildfires that took 44 lives and destroyed 6,400 homes in Northern California last October.

There were Democrats and Republicans on both sides of the vote in each house, with some lawmakers who rarely agree in concert on the measure, while 24 legislators declined to cast a vote.

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