After California Wildfires, Judge Proposes Having PG&E Inspect All 106000 Miles of Electric Grid – The Weather Channel

Abandoned vehicles sit on the side of a road in Paradise, California, on November 9, 2018. The Camp Fire nearly wiped out the town and killed 86 people.

(Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

  • The federal judge is reacting to years of deadly wildfires in California.
  • The utility has already been blamed in 18 wildfires in 2017.
  • The judge’s order would require PG&E to confirm its entire electrical distribution system is safe.

A federal judge is considering ordering Pacific Gas and Electric Co. to inspect all 106,000 miles of its electrical grid.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup also said in his order Wednesday that the California utility would have to “remove or trim all trees that could fall onto its power lines, poles or equipment in high-wind conditions,” the Sacramento Bee reported. And if the utility can’t prove its lines are safe in high winds, power would have to be shut off during high-wind conditions.

“Reliability is important but safety must come first. Profits are important but safety must come first. Only safe operation will be allowed,” he said in his proposed order.

Alsup has been demanding answers from PG&E about its role in the state’s wildfires, the San Francisco Chronicle writes, since soon after the Camp Fire in Northern California killed 86 people and destroyed almost 19,000 structures.

(MORE: California Utility Could Face Murder, Manslaughter Charges for Wildfires)

CAL Fire is still investigating the cause of the Camp Fire, but investigators have determined that PG&E caused 18 wildfires in 2017, KGO-TV reports. The utility faces possible criminal prosecution in those fires.

PG&E has disclosed its equipment had problems in the area where the Camp Fire is believed to have started.

The utility has two weeks to respond Alsup’s order, and the judge set a hearing for Jan. 30.

PG&E spokesman James Noonan said safety is the company’s “most important responsibility.”

“We are aware of Judge Alsup’s orders and are currently reviewing,” Noonan said. “We are committed to complying with all rules and regulations that apply to our work, while working together with our state and community partners and across all sectors and disciplines to develop comprehensive, long-term safety solutions for the future.”

Alsup is overseeing the utility’s probation it is serving because of a criminal conviction in the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion that killed eight people and wounded dozens of others.

(MORE: California Governor Wants Millions More for Wildfire Prevention)

“These conditions of probation are intended to reduce to zero the number of wildfires caused by PG&E in the 2019 Wildfire Season,” Alsup said in his order. “This will likely mean having to interrupt service during high-wind events (and possibly at other times) but that inconvenience, irritating as it will be, will pale by comparison to the death and destruction that otherwise might result from PG&E-inflicted wildfires.”