A federal judge ruled on Wednesday that Pacific Gas & Electric poses a “continuing threat” to California because of its role in igniting deadly wildfires, as the utility is set to end a five years criminal probation.
During its probation, PG&E-owned equipment started at least 31 wildfires that burned nearly 1.5 million acres and killed 113 people, U.S. District Judge William Alsup said. written in a report.
During PG&E’s probation, all of the fires started by its distribution lines involved dangerous trees. Alsup called the company’s backlog of unattended trees and vegetation at the start of its trial period “staggering” and called on the company to stop subcontracting to independent contractors, who it says him, carried out “botched inspection and demining work”.
Alsup has overseen probation for the company since his conviction for crimes related to the 2010 gas pipeline explosion in California. PG&E’s probation is scheduled to end on January 25.
“PG&E has embarked on a crime spree and will emerge from probation as a continuing threat to California,” Alsup wrote.
“On probation, with a rehabilitative goal in mind, we always prefer that offenders learn to accept responsibility for their actions,” Alsup wrote. “Unfortunately, during the five years of probation, PG&E has refused to accept responsibility for its actions until it suits its cause or until it is forced to.”
The company’s equipment has been blamed for numerous wildfires in the state in recent years. A recent state investigation found that PG&E transmission lines sparked the Dixie Fire in Northern California, which burned nearly a million acres and destroyed more than 1,300 homes in the summer. last. It is the second largest wildfire in California history.
PG&E pleaded guilty in 2019 to 84 counts of manslaughter in the 2018 Camp Fire, the deadliest wildfire in California history. He faces five felony counts and 28 misdemeanors in the 2019 Kincade Fire in Sonoma County. He also faces a host of other civil and criminal actions for his alleged responsibility for the wildfires.
The judge wrote that California “will remain trapped in a tragic era of PG&E wildfires” because the company has neglected to carry out the removal of dangerous trees and the clearing of vegetation, which are required by the Resources Code California public.
“PG&E blamed global warming, drought and bark beetles. It is true that these things made the wildfires worse,” Alsup said. “But those were reasons to step up compliance rather than slack off. And those things didn’t start those fires. PG&E did that.
PG&E spokesman James Noonan said in a statement that the company welcomed comments from the court, federal comptroller and other stakeholders and recognizes the common goal of keeping its co-workers and workers safe. of its customers.
“PG&E has become a fundamentally safer company during our probation,” Noonan said. “We are focused every day on securing our system and continuing our position that catastrophic wildfires must end. We are committed to doing this work, now and in the years to come. »
Earlier this year, the company announced plans to bury 10,000 miles of power lines start in the most fire-prone neighborhoods to minimize the role of his equipment in starting fires.