PG&E crews carry out repair work in Paradise, CA

Holly Quan/KCBS Radio

PG&E Ordered To Respond To New Revelations About Ignoring Risks

Holly Quan
July 11, 2019 - 10:02 am

SAN FRANCISCO, — A federal judge has ordered PG&E to respond to an investigative report by the Wall Street Journal that contended the utility knew its power lines and towers were deteriorating for years but failed to fix them.

Just one day after the report was released, U.S. District Judge William Alsup ordered PG&E to respond “paragraph by paragraph” in a “fresh, forthright statement owning up to the true extent of the Wall Street Journal report.” The report can be no longer than 40 double spaced pages, in an effort to prevent the utility from providing an avalanche of documents in response.

The newspaper used Freedom of Information Act requests to gain access to internal PG&E documents that demonstrate the utility knew the 49 towers supporting the power line that sparked the Camp Fire presented a fire risk and were in need of repair, but considered the project low priority. That fire became the deadliest in California’s history, killing 85 people and destroying the town of Paradise.

Related: PG&E To Pay Up To $1 Billion For Wildfire Damage

Judge Alsup is overseeing PG&E’s probation stemming from the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion and has previously issued orders relating to the company’s fire safety procedures, including an order to PG&E’s board to tour Paradise.

Councilman Mike Zuccolillo told KCBS Radio the visit was a disappointment because boardmembers did not meet with local officials. “I knew roughly the dates they were coming and I heard nothing about it as the dates were approaching. I started making phone calls to people I knew – basically it was a very arranged tour, they didn’t want the media to find them. I probably had two dozen media outlets calling me.”

Zuccolillo said he wishes he could have had the opportunity to speak directly to the people responsible.

“The people that came to tour here were not the board members… that were responsible for making these decisions, nor was the CEO," he said. "They have a new CEO, they cleaned out most of their board members, so the people that came to tour Paradise were people that weren’t really responsible.”

The utility has until July 31 to provide the court with its response. PG&E says it is reviewing the judge’s order.