“[PG&E], though the single largest privately-owned utility in America, cannot safely deliver power to California,” Alsup declared in a blistering 13-page ruling that detailed the saga of PG&E’s deadly disasters and challenges the state to fix it. “This failure is upon us because for years, in order to enlarge dividends, bonuses, and political contributions, PG&E cheated on maintenance of its grid — to the point that the grid became unsafe to operate during our annual high winds.”
The judge made it clear that the blackouts are necessary to protect the public from the offender in his courtroom.
“We must continue to tolerate [blackouts] as the lesser evil until PG&E has come into compliance… and the grid is safe to operate in high winds,” Alsup concluded.
But that’s supposed to take years to finish. COVID-19 is here now.
“We need to see a dramatic reduction in these shutoffs,” Toney said.
For that to happen, PG&E needs to fix its grid or the state needs to make plans to fight fires if a dangerous circuit is going to be left on during windstroms.
PG&E declined to be interviewed for this story, but in a written statement promised it’s improving power line safety “to make [blackouts] this year smaller in size, shorter in duration and smarter for customers.”
PG&E’s past safety promises have fallen short time and time again. The company was supposed to plead guilty in April to 84 counts of manslaughter– felony homicide charges for killing the people who burned to death in the 2018 Camp Fire, started by a problem PG&E knew existed for years.COVID-19 postponed PG&E’s court date to at least later this month.
Shortly after the charges were announced, PG&E decided to pay it’s $4 million criminal fine from a wildfire victims’ fund in bankruptcy court. PG&E opted to change that plan after public backlash.
The California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates PG&E, will meet later this month to consider rules for the shutoffs if they’re needed again this year.
Thousands of lives could hang in the balance.