SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) – PG&E was already under fire on Thursday by state regulators for its vegetation management practices by the federal judge overseeing the criminal case.
Citing numerous shortcomings in PG & E’s efforts to fight forest fires, the California Public Utilities Commission voted to pass a resolution placing PG&E on Step 1 of a six-step ladder of “extended oversight” included in Step 6 would lead to the “potential revocation of PG & E’s ability to operate as a California electricity company.” “
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The six phases of oversight were established as part of the approval of PG & E’s restructuring plan by the CPUC, the mechanism by which PG & E was able to exit the Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.
The “triggering event” that sparked the CPUC’s mandate was the finding that PG&E has not made adequate progress in using risk management tools to determine where vegetation management efforts should be directed.
The management of trees and bushes in PG & Es’s extensive system of power distribution and supply lines is of great importance for the reduction of forest fires, since in strong winds trees or vegetation can fall on uninsulated wires on the ground and ignite the dry grasses.
U.S. District Judge Alsup is currently considering proposals that would require PG&E to consider the risk of trees falling on power lines as part of the conditions for parole.
Alsup has been extremely critical of PG & E’s efforts to reduce the risk of forest fires. In a recent assignment, Alsup shared what he called “a breathtaking chapter in California history”.
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Since PG&E was paroled in 2016 following a conviction for a 2010 San Bruno gas pipeline explosion, PG&E has set 20 or more wildfires in California, killing at least 111 people, destroying at least 22,627 buildings, and burning half a million Tomorrow. “
Alsup’s command reported the grim peculiarities: the 2017 wine country fires (22 dead, 3,256 buildings destroyed); the campfire in 2018 (85 dead, 18,793 buildings burned); the Kincade Fire in 2019 (374 buildings destroyed); and most recently the Zogg fire in 2020 (4 dead, 204 buildings destroyed).
Judge Alsup has often criticized PG&E for failing to manage vegetation to the required level for a decade. The judge has also criticized the CPUC for allowing this neglect.
Among other things, the CPUC regulation requires PG&E to submit a “corrective action plan” within 90 days, which explains in detail “how both the risk modeling is carried out and the results of the risk modeling are used to ensure that power lines with the highest risk to vegetation will be prioritized management. “
The measure was based on an audit carried out by the Wildfire Safety Division of the CPUC in the period from October 21, 2020 to February 5, 2021. The audit identified deficiencies in PG & E’s use of risk modeling to provide information on vegetation management efforts.
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