PG&E: It's 'probable' our equipment caused the deadly Camp Fire

Pacific Gas and Electric released it’s quarterly earnings results today and along with that an update saying it was “probable” the company’s equipment had caused the deadly Camp Fire:

Although the cause of the 2018 Camp Fire is still under investigation, based on the information currently known to the company and reported to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and other agencies, the company believes it is probable that its equipment will be determined to be an ignition point of the 2018 Camp Fire…

At approximately 6:15 a.m., the Caribou-Palermo 115 kV Transmission Line relayed and deenergized. At approximately 6:30 a.m. that day, a PG&E employee observed fire in the vicinity of Tower :27/222, and this observation was reported to 911. Later that day, PG&E observed damage on the line at Tower :27/222. Specifically, an aerial patrol identified that a suspension insulator supporting a transposition jumper had separated from an arm on Tower :27/222…

Based on these facts, the company is including a $10.5 billion pre-tax charge related to third-party claims in connection with the 2018 Camp Fire in its full-year and fourth-quarter 2018 financial results.

In other words, they tripped a breaker moments before the fire was reported in the same area where the fire was first spotted. A subsequent investigation found evidence of damage to the tower at that spot. All of this has been known for a couple of month. The news here is that the company is now openly anticipating the billions of dollars in lawsuits it will face. But $10.5 billion will not be nearly enough to cover that debt. The fire killed 85 people and destroyed thousands of homes, wiping out the town of Paradise, CA.

The utility company filed for bankruptcy last month. PG&E was cleared last month in the case of the Tubbs Fire which killed 22 people in 2017. However, the company is still facing billions in lawsuits from more than a dozen other fires it was found responsible for in 2017. The Mayor of Paradise says former residents of her town are worried the bankruptcy will substantially limit the compensation they receive:

Despite the admission by PG&E, and even if the company’s expectations are formally confirmed by the investigative results for the Camp Fire, these new disclosures may prove only cold comfort for victims of the Butte County inferno, which essentially destroyed the town of Paradise.

“Everyone is concerned that the fire victims are not going to be fully compensated for their losses in the Camp Fire, Paradise Mayor Jody Jones said. “I don’t think anybody is going to be made whole because of the bankruptcy.”

California’s new governor, Gavin Newsom, has suggested he wants the utility to survive. We’ll have to wait and see what he has planned but one thing seems pretty certain, energy prices in California are about to go up.