Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Utility Watchdog Group Concerned of ‘Serious Flaws’ in PG&E’s Wildfire Safety Plan


The following press release was issued by the California Public Utilities Commission:

Firefighters working to suppress the August Complex West Zone [Picture from the Lubbock Fire Department Facebook Page]

In PG&E’s latest filing at the CPUC, the utility continues its pattern of ignoring wildfire safety recommendations. Specifically, PG&E has again failed to address the serious flaws the Public Advocates Office’s roadmap to improve safety identified in PG&E’s wildfire safety plan.

PG&E has been working to evade effective oversight and accountability at every step along the way.

Major Concerns in PG&E’s 2021 Wildfire Mitigation Plan – Identified by Public Advocates Office

Shoddy management. The company’s managers neglected to have staff prioritize inspections in high-risk areas, sent arborists to verify tree-trimming that hadn’t been done yet, failed to communicate inspection procedures to workers, and didn’t keep track of contractors’ performance.  Still, PG&E’s wildfire plan does not do enough to improve management oversight and quality of work.

Illogical tree-trimming program. PG&E trimmed trees in places where the fire threat is less serious instead of the neighborhoods with high wildfire risk.

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Grid upgrades in the wrong places. PG&E is moving too slowly on improving its grid and is prioritizing areas with low wildfire risk. Grid upgrades should make the system that brings electricity to your house safer and more fire resistant. At PG&E’s proposed pace, it will take more than twenty years to reach all the areas with the highest wildfire risk.

More on PG&E pushing back on safety improvements

Independent safety monitor. Just yesterday, PG&E dug in its heels against having an effective and independent overseer who can make sure the utility operates safely. They want a monitor limited staff and access to outside experts.

Camp Fire. PG&E has steadfastly refused to accept its culpability for the Camp Fire. PG&E refuses to acknowledge that its inspection and maintenance of the transmission line that ignited the 2018 Camp Fire were deficient, despite the overwhelming evidence of poor record keeping and ineffective inspections presented in the PG&E Wildfire OII, and despite PG&E’s subsequent guilty plea. PG&E has instead given its top executives nearly $100 million in bonuses.

What is next in the process?

Regulators have an opportunity to require that PG&E fix its wildfire plans. The Public Advocates Office recommends the Wildfire Safety Division reject PG&E’s plan until it makes immediate changes to its plans to focus on the riskiest areas, adopt stronger oversight so it can better review its own safety performance, and beef up its inspections.

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  1. It’s not just PG&E that gets it wrong – city of Ukiah’s contractors hacked at several of my trees TWICE last year. Once in spring during birdnesting season, and again in fall. The SAME trees each time – they hadn’t grown back after the first onslaught. And they do the job so poorly – instead of trimming the north side of the trees where the electrical lines are located, they hack 6 feet or more off the top, so of course when the trees grow back, they put out way more shoots lower down – closer to the lines again.

  2. Where’s my free battery backup for my water well? Oh what PG&E? You already gave those rebates away to rich suburban home owners in Santa rosa? Oh.. OK..

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
I like to think of myself as a reporter for the Average Joe. Journalism has become a craft defined largely by city dwellers on America's coasts. It’s time to take it back. I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at matthewplafever@gmail.com if you know a story that needs to be told.

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