Tuesday, May 5, San Francisco— Mark Toney, executive director of The Utility Reform Network, said today that that a California Public Utilities Commission proposal to let PG&E off the hook for violations leading to deadly and destructive wildfires in northern California in 2017-2018 sent the wrong message to PG&E and the wrong message to customers. “Customers want to see PG&E held accountable for its flagrant and lethal violations of safety rules,” Toney said. “The amount of the fine is supposed to reflect the seriousness of the conduct not the whims of the wrongdoer.”
The Commission’s proposal acknowledges PG&E’s culpability, stating “There is no question that PG&E’s electric facilities played a role in the 2017 and 2018 fires. PG&E faces a total of 45 alleged violations concerning these fires…. Given the severity of the allegations, the assessment of no fine is not within a reasonable range of potentially litigated outcomes.”
However, in a proposal scheduled to be voted on this Thursday at the CPUC’s regular business meeting, the fine would be “permanently suspended” based on PG&E’s unsupported and totally self-serving assertions that forcing it to pay the fine could jeopardize its bankruptcy exit plan. “PG&E has already pleaded guilty to manslaughter for the 84 deaths its conduct resulted in,” said Toney. Shouldn’t the Commission be imposing the harshest penalties imaginable for these deadly failures?
Toney added that TURN didn’t buy PG&E’s claims of poverty. “The $200 million fine pales in comparison to the $1.6 billion in professional fees the utility will pay related to its bankruptcy. This is a relatively small measure of accountability that the Commission should not back down on.”