A state audit, released last Friday, claims that California officials are not holding electrical companies like PG&E accountable for fires started by their equipment.
The report called the state’s plans “seriously deficient” for wildfire reduction. The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) was also criticized for not using its authority to “penalize utilities” when reviews deem them at fault for fires.
The Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E); California’s largest utility company, has been under the microscope since they were held responsible for 2018’s Camp Fire—the deadliest fire in state history. Since then, PG&E has endured massive turnover, including filing for bankruptcy and hiring a new CEO last year.
KRCR reached out to The Utility Reform Network (TURN) to get their thoughts on the audit.
“The state wildfire audit shows the dangers of excluding the public from its process,” said Mark Toney, TURN’s Executive Director. “Locking out rate-payer advocates like TURN and listening only to utility results in the CPUC and energy safety failing to protect the public.”
Toney believes state regulators are worrying more about “Wall Street, and what Wall Street investors want” than they do about the public and how much they pay for their utility bills. But the real issue, of course, is fire prevention.
“The issue is how do we stop the wildfires,” Toney exclaimed. “How do we stop PG&E from starting wildfires, and how do we do it in the most cost-effective manner.”
To that point, Toney is not a fan of PG&E’s underground power line project; he finds it too expensive, and would rather see the company copy Southern California Edison’s idea of “insulating” their wires.
KRCR contacted PG&E about their response to the audit. They declined to speak on camera but sent us a statement saying they are still reviewing the report. They also made clear that they have ambitious plans for 2022, which include accelerating the installation of underground powerlines in fire-prone areas.