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PG&E inspection finds 1,200 safety problems in wildfire-prone areas of California

  • Jun 20, 2019 5:57 am GMT
The Press Democrat

Jun. 20--PG&E said Wednesday it found about 1,200 unsafe conditions in its power equipment across California in areas deemed at high risk for wildfires and has repaired nearly all of them.

The inspection, launched in December and unprecedented in its scope for the San Francisco-based utility, covered nearly 700,000 power distribution poles, nearly 50,000 transmission structures and 222 substations, more than 5,500 miles of transmission line and 25,200 miles of distribution line.

All the conditions that posed "an immediate safety risk" in transmission lines and at substations have been repaired along with 97 percent of the conditions on poles, Sumeet Singh, vice president of PG&E's community wildfire safety program, said in a conference call with reporters.

Crews were in the field completing the pole repair work Wednesday, he said.

While the safety problems involved a small proportion of the system that serves 5.4 million power customers across Northern and Central California, Singh said the risk was "unacceptable."

"We need to do better," he said. "When it comes to safety our work is not done and it never will be done."

Critics, including California Public Utilities Commission officials who oversee the state's power companies, have faulted PG&E's commitment to safety.

Safety risks found in the inspection program included worn mechanical hardware, structural components compromised by wear or erosion and woodpecker holes in poles, Singh said.

The cost of PG&E's wildfire safety plan, including the inspection program and vegetation management, may exceed $2.3 billion. The utility intends to include the cost in its rate base, used to set the charges paid by customers.

PG&E also announced it has permanently shut down the Caribou-Palermo transmission line identified by Cal Fire as the source of the Camp fire, which killed 85 people and destroyed nearly 19,000 structures last year. The line has been out of service since December, the utility said.

In addition, 10 of the 11 towers on a section of the transmission line running through the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in Marin County and serving Sausalito need to be replaced and PG&E is coordinating the work with the GGNRA, utility officials said.

Check back later for more on this story.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or On Twitter @guykovner.


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