Bankruptcy bound Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) told a federal district court judge in San Francisco that its equipment, or operations, could have been involved in at least nine fires in Northern California this year.
PG&E told the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California that potential causes are known for eight of them. "As of Sept. 17, PG&E's equipment may have contributed to nine ignitions in 2019 that resulted in fires 10 acres or greater," the utility said.
PG&E submitted the report to judge Judge William Alsup who is monitoring a five-year probationary period from PG&E's 2016 federal jury conviction related to the fatal 2010 San Bruno gas transmission pipeline rupture and explosion, which killed eight people.
In its court filing, PG&E reported that it is focused on accelerated vegetation management, hardening its electrical system and the use of public safety power shutoffs (PSPS). The largest PSPS in state history kicked off controversy among customers, regulators and elected officials last week. Since the outbreak of major fires in the past two years, Judge Alsup has questioned the effectiveness of PG&E's efforts.
"As of Sept. 4, PG&E has installed more than 160 sectionalizing devices that allow [the utility] to limit the geographical impact of the [PSPS] as well as accelerate restoration efforts," the utility reported in its six-page filing.
PG&E spokesperson James Noonan told NGI that the utility welcomes the "ongoing dialogue with the court" because it presents an opportunity to detail what he called "extensive work" on wildfire mitigation. "We recognize that we must take a leading role in reducing the risk of wildfires.
"We [understand] that we have additional work to do, and we will continue to pursue improvements while working with regulators, lawmakers, the court and other stakeholders."
Separately on Monday, activist group Action for Wildfire Resiliency praised state officials for four recent bills signed into law.
Senate Bill (SB) 209 creates a state wildfire warning center and SB 190 establishes "defensible space" ordinances.
The other two were Assembly Bills (AB). AB 38 provides financial assistance and rebates to qualified property owners for fire hardening and vegetation management. AB 1668 establishes training for fire prevention skills in fuels reduction, vegetation management and natural resource protection.