To strengthen its oversight of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) safety performance, California regulators have established an independent safety monitor to help shape daily operations.

PG&E is under scrutiny for its potential role in causing several North California wildfires, including the Dixie fire, considered the second largest in state history. 

“We welcome the additional oversight that will be provided by the independent safety monitor,” said PG&E spokesperson James Noonan. “We agreed to this structure when we emerged from Chapter 11 last year.”

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) said the monitor should function similar to a federal court-assigned monitor. A federal monitor for PG&E, appointed through December, is overseeing the utility’s criminal conviction in its role in the 2010 San Bruno gas transmission pipeline explosion.

The independent monitor would serve for five years and cost up to $5 million annually, paid for by PG&E shareholders. The additional monitoring would include helping PG&E upgrade safety recordkeeping and record management systems. The monitor would not duplicate ongoing work by the CPUC. 

The CPUC said the monitor would ensure that PG&E safety culture is “informed by prior failures and supportive of the safe system construction, operation and maintenance in the utility’s electric and natural gas lines of business.”