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Guilty Plea of PG&E

image credit: ID 176757371 © | Dreamstime.com

PG&E plead guilty to the involuntary manslaughter of 84 people killed in the 2018 Paradise, CA wildfires.  “Our equipment started that fire,” PG&E CEO Bill Johnson said in a court hearing, and the names of each person who died in the fire were read aloud.  Along with their guilty plea, the company agreed to pay a fine of $3.5 million.  Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) slammed the company for its history of prioritizing profits over public safety.  The court hearing also accused the utility of negligent business practices that put profits ahead of upgrades that would protect their 16 million customers.  The bankruptcy deals include $13.5 billion earmarked for wildfire victims. A federal judge is expected to issue a final decision on PG&E’s bankruptcy and reorganization plan by June 30.  Since the fires, the bankrupt utility has cut power to more than 2 million people in Northern California in an attempt to prevent further fires.  

Just south of there, companies in Silicon Valley are doubly concerned that blackouts this year will send a crippling blow to tech giants like Google, Twitter and Facebook.  Employees working from home during the pandemic could loose power for hours, if not days.  In October 2019, PG&E and Edison International implemented a series of rolling blackouts for more than a week that affected more than 3 million people.   While their efforts are to save lives, businesses lost productivity.  The state's utilities and government officials, have said they're working to minimize the threat. But the threat is real.  According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), California is looking at an "above normal significant large fire potential in July through August.”  The NIFC is a federal agency in Boise, Idaho that coordinates wildland firefighting resources with predictions on drought conditions and large-scale weather patterns.  The agency reported that “precipitation has been significantly below normal, and drought designations have expanded across the region.”

For safety, utilities will continue to base their decisions on weather conditions like high winds, hot temperatures, low humidity and dry vegetation to determine outages.  Californians are potentially looking at sheltering-in-place without power but state officials and PG&E are hoping for a better outcome this year.

"We want to reduce the impact of public safety power shutoffs on customers whether they are working from home or not," said Matt Pender, director of the community wildfire safety program at PG&E.  Edison International and PG&E are installing switches to isolate power cuts and hardening their field equipment to reduce the risk of fire.  The companies will also provide community resource centers with charging stations for those impacted by outages. 

Since we can’t change the weather, (debate-able) what more can be done to prevent another fatal summer wildfire in the area?  

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Thank Nevelyn for the Post!

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jun 17, 2020 12:14 pm GMT

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) slammed the company for its history of prioritizing profits over public safety.  The court hearing also accused the utility of negligent business practices that put profits ahead of upgrades that would protect their 16 million customers.

Great lesson to see why utilities are unique among industries in how they are positioned and the role they play in communities, as well as the resulting responsibility they have to doing things right

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