SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 30: Pedestrians walk by a Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) truck at a job site on July 30, 2014 in San Francisco, California. A federal grand jury has added 27 new charges, including obstruction of justice, the criminal case agains

PG&E Truck (Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Judge Prepares Tough Restrictions On PG&E

Holly Quan
January 10, 2019 - 10:46 am

A federal judge proposed stringent safety orders for PG&E that would require it to inspect its entire power transmission grid, trim trees and vegetation that could cause fires and turn off electricity during high winds. 

The possible order to inspect over 106,000 miles of power lines shocked even one of PG&E's harshest critics. 

"It's a lot of miles of line and I don't know how they can do it," state Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) said. "Their inspection process before is not that substantial. They'll fly over in an airplane and look down and use special equipment to do it. But if they have to look at each mile and each line individually, it's going to be a big job."

It all stems from last month's revelations that the PG&E had been faking inspection records and reports. The utility has been on probation since the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion that killed eight people.

Since then, it's been linked to the cause of a number of deadly wildfires. 

Hill is happy though to see the judge getting serious about sanctioning PG&E. He believes that whatever course the judge takes, it has to be punitive. 

"Until we put someone in jail, until someone goes to prison for these actions, he's going to have to take the drastic step of making them make the investment, put the labor and the time into doing the inspections," he said. "Because I think he, as we all are, is frankly upset and tired of seeing the destruction of California year after year."

A PG&E spokesman told the San Francisco Chronicle the utility is committed to complying with all rules and regulations that apply to its work. 

In related news, the Bay Area News Group is reporting that federal probation officials have accused PG&E of violating the terms of the probation imposed after the San Bruno explosion.

Those officials said the utility failed to report that it reached a settlement with Butte County for its role in three fires that burned there in 2017. They  also claimed that PG&E did not disclose that it was being criminally investigated in connection with one of those fires for failing to prune trees near power lines. 

PG&E's lawyers have been ordered to appear in court at the end of this month to answer to these charges. 

Written by Diana Shook