A federal district judge in San Francisco overseeing Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s (PG&E) probation from a previous criminal conviction on Wednesday ordered the combination utility to defend its inspection and maintenance practices.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup heard testimony from consulting engineer Thomas Hylton, who was hired by wildfire victims’ attorneys, regarding the 2018 Camp Fire, which destroyed the town of Paradise in Northern California. Hylton inspected the PG&E Cresta-Rio Oso line that parallels the Caribou-Palermo line suspected as the cause of the fire.
PG&E spokesperson Jeff Smith said the utility has inspected almost 730,000 transmission, distribution, and substation structures and more than 2.5 million electrical components, completing 18 months’ worth of inspections in four months.
PG&E considers Alsup’s involvement a “welcome opportunity to continue our ongoing dialogue with the court,” allowing it to articulate how it is strengthening infrastructure, Smith said. Regarding Hylton’s testimony, PG&E re-inspected the Cresta-Rio Oso line and “determined that there were no immediate safety issues with the equipment,” but it is “working to repair the piece of equipment in question, and because that will require taking the line out of service, a time to make the repairs is being scheduled.”
Smith also responded to concerns by Hylton about tape on the C-hooks related to the transmission line, which appeared to look like patchwork repairs had been done. He said the tape was not for maintenance or repair but was used for insulator replacement.
Alsup has ordered PG&E to provide a report to the court by March 2.