Pacific Gas and Electric got a break Wednesday when investigators concluded that the company was not responsible for the deadly 2017 Tubbs fire which killed 22 people. The fire was caused by an electrical problem outside a residence, not by the company’s power lines. From the Associated Press:
“I eliminated all other causes for the Tubbs Fire, with the exception of an electrical caused fire originating from an unknown event affecting privately owned conductor or equipment,” CalFire Battalion Chief John Martinez wrote…
The fire was one of more than 170 that torched the state in October 2017. It destroyed more than 5,600 structures over more than 57 square miles (148 sq. kilometers) in Sonoma and Napa counties…
The company said in a statement that despite Thursday’s finding, PG&E “still faces extensive litigation, significant potential liabilities and a deteriorating financial situation.”
Culpability for the Tubbs fire could have cost the company several billion dollars but PG&E has already been judged responsible for 17 other fires in 2017 so it’s not as if they’re off the hook. More importantly, it seems likely the company will be found responsible for the Camp Fire, the deadliest in state history. Some believe the combined cost could run to $30 billion dollars which is why the company announced it would file for bankruptcy last week.
Meanwhile, PG&E is asking a judge overseeing its responsibility for a deadly 2010 gas explosion to not require it to cut down all trees in the area of power lines, claiming the cost of doing so could be $150 billion:
Earlier this month, Alsup proposed ordering PG&E to remove or trim all trees that could fall onto its power lines, poles or equipment in high-wind conditions and to document its inspections and work.
He also proposed ordering PG&E to reinspect its entire electric grid and to cut off power during certain wind conditions regardless of the inconvenience to customers or loss of profit…
PG&E said in its court filing Wednesday that complying with all of Alsup’s proposals could cost as much as $150 billion and require massive rate hikes.
The proposals, aimed at stopping fires this year, would require the utility to remove an estimated 100 million trees, causing significant environmental consequences, PG&E said.
I’d like to hear someone’s take on how PG&E came up with 100 million trees and $150 billion dollars. That seems like a lot of money per tree. Also, if you really cut down that many trees couldn’t you recoup some of the cost by selling the lumber? If the cost really is that high it might be cheaper to underground some of the lines (though that can create other problems). Maybe this court isn’t the most qualified place to decide how to fix the problem but something obviously has to be done given the number of deadly wildfires caused by the company’s equipment in the past two years. At the current pace, it won’t be long before PG&E is responsible for another deadly fire even as it’s struggling to recover from the last one. What steps are going to be taken to lower the risk of that to customers?