Know the Truth About PG&EPG&E's Weak Safety Record and Possible Negligence May Be Responsible for Sonoma County Wildfires
The Press Democrat
“State regulators released reports from PG&E this week that document at least 20 cases of toppled trees and downed power lines across Northern California the night of Oct.8th…” (11/1/17)
The Mercury News
“…emergency dispatchers in Sonoma County received multiple calls of power lines falling down and electrical transformers exploding.” (10/10/17)
The Press Democrat
“The reports show damage to the power lines and other PG&E equipment in areas close to the origins of the fires…” (11/1/17)
PG&E is being investigated.
State law requires utilities to maintain power lines safely and to cut back any nearby vegetation to prevent fires from starting. If they are found to be negligent of this responsibility, the utility is liable for fines and damages for loss of life and for homes, businesses and buildings lost in the fire.
On October 12, 2017, the California Public Utilities Commission launched an investigation into the role PG&E may have played in the devastating fires in Santa Rosa and Sonoma County. A number of PG&E’s downed wires and blown transformers occurred at the same time as multiple fires igniting, according to fire dispatch calls from the first 90 minutes of the firestorm.
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PG&E has a long history of being found responsible for major wildfires because of inadequate maintenance of their power lines.
In 1994, PG&E was found guilty of 739 counts of negligence and fined nearly $30 million by state regulators when trees touched its high-voltage wires in Nevada County in the Sierra foothills, sparking a fire near the town of Rough and Ready that destroyed 12 homes and a 19th century school-house. Afterward, prosecutors found that PG&E had diverted nearly $80 million from its tree-cutting pro-grams into profits. (The Mercury News, October 12, 2017).
PG&E was also fined previously for it’s failure to properly maintain its natural gas lines, leading to the 2010 San Bruno explosion, which killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes. The company was fined $1.6 billion by the CPUC, and a federal jury convicted the company on five charges of violating federal pipeline safety regulations and one charge of obstructing an official National Transportation Safety Board probe into the blast. (New York Times, August 10, 2016)
In April 2017, the CPUC fined PG&E for its role in the Butte Fire in 2015, which destroyed 549 homes and killed two people in a fire that burned for 22 days, charring 70,868 acres of land. PG&E paid an $8.3 million fire to the California Public Utilities Commission and $90 million to Cal Fire to cover firefighting costs. More than 1,000 lawsuits and claims are still pending against the utility. (The Mercury News, October 10, 2017)
Additionally, investigators have blamed PG&E tree-trimming violations for causing the 2,100-acre wildfire in the heart of Sonoma County in 1996; the 1990 Campbell fire in Tehama County, which burned 125,000 acres; the 1992 Fawn Hill Fire in Placer County, which burned 250 acres and 11 homes, and the 1995 Sailor Fire in Placer County, which burned 150 acres. (www.sfgate.com, June 20, 1997)
Don’t be distracted by false claims.
“The heavy winds that downed power lines … were far from “hurricane strength,” as PG&E has claimed…wind speeds were only about half that level, as the lines started to come down, the weather station records show.”
– The Mercury News, Oct. 12, 2017