US judge eases wildfire safety plan for California utility


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A U.S. judge overseeing a criminal case against Pacific Gas & Electric Co. called the California utility’s efforts to prevent trees from hitting its power lines and starting wildfires “dismal” but scaled back his proposals to prevent its equipment from causing more blazes.

Judge William Alsup said in an order late Tuesday that he’s now considering making PG&E comply with targets in a wildfire mitigation plan that the company submitted to California regulators.

He also proposed that a court-appointed monitor oversee the utility’s efforts to clear trees and branches.

The judge previously considered ordering PG&E to reinspect its entire electric grid, remove or trim all trees that could fall on its power lines and cut off power during certain wind conditions.

PG&E pushed back against those proposals, saying in court documents that they would endanger lives, could cost as much as $150 billion and would interfere with the work of federal and state regulators.

Why an Army Veteran Sold His Farm to Sail the World in Search of Rare Treasure

In response to Alsup’s latest order, the company said it’s committed to completing work on its wildfire plan.

“We continue to work with regulators, lawmakers and our community partners across all sectors and disciplines to develop comprehensive, long-term safety solutions for our state,” a company statement said.

In the plan submitted last month, PG&E promised to spend more than $2 billion this year to improve wildfire prevention. The utility said it would step up its tree cutting and trimming and expand its use of blackouts.

Alsup on Tuesday also proposed ordering PG&E not to pay any dividends to shareholders until it meets his vegetation management requirements, including compliance with a state law requiring the utility to clear vegetation within certain distances of electric lines.

The judge, however, noted that PG&E had previously suspended cash dividends.

Alsup is overseeing a criminal conviction against PG&E stemming from a 2010 gas line explosion that killed eight people in the San Francisco Bay Area. The judge’s proposals follow devastating wildfires in California in 2017 and 2018 — some of which investigators have blamed on PG&E equipment — and would be part of the utility’s probation in the criminal case.

Alsup said his goal is to prevent PG&E equipment from causing any wildfires during the 2019 fire season.

The company sought bankruptcy protection in January in the face of billions of dollars in potential liability from recent wildfires.

The Western Journal has not reviewed this Associated Press story prior to publication. Therefore, it may contain editorial bias or may in some other way not meet our normal editorial standards. It is provided to our readers as a service from The Western Journal.

Truth and Accuracy

Submit a Correction →

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

The Associated Press is an independent, not-for-profit news cooperative headquartered in New York City. Their teams in over 100 countries tell the world’s stories, from breaking news to investigative reporting. They provide content and services to help engage audiences worldwide, working with companies of all types, from broadcasters to brands. Photo credit: @AP on Twitter
The Associated Press was the first private sector organization in the U.S. to operate on a national scale. Over the past 170 years, they have been first to inform the world of many of history's most important moments, from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the fall of the Shah of Iran and the death of Pope John Paul.

Today, they operate in 263 locations in more than 100 countries relaying breaking news, covering war and conflict and producing enterprise reports that tell the world's stories.
New York City