PG&E has missed many trees, work quality is “questionable” in effort to prevent wildfires: court report

PG&E has failed to meet its goals for vegetation management and tree trimming, and the work by the disgraced utility is “questionable,” a court-ordered monitor stated in an unsettling new report that was released on Wednesday.

The report raises fresh questions about PG&E’s efforts to help curb a new outburst of infernos akin to the fatal wildfires that have torched numerous areas of Northern California with catastrophic results.

“PG&E’s contractors are missing numerous trees that should have been identified and worked,” according to the report by the monitor established by the court that is supervising PG&E’s probation in the wake of the company’s criminal conviction in 2016 that was linked to a fatal gas explosion in San Bruno that killed eight people.

The company also is falling short of its goals for enhanced vegetation management for 2019, the report stated.

Even worse, the work that has been done appears to be subpar in at least some instances.

“The quality of the completed work is questionable,” stated the report from Kirkland & Ellis, a law firm that was appointed to monitor PG&E’s actions during its probationary period.

San Francisco-based PG&E’s probation is being supervised by a federal judge. PG&E was convicted in a criminal proceeding for felonies the company committed before and after a fatal explosion in 2010 that killed eight and destroyed a San Bruno neighborhood.

U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup extended the scope of PG&E’s probation to include the company’s role in, and response to, a series of deadly infernos that scorched parts of Amador County and Calaveras County in 2015, the North Bay Wine Country and nearby regions in 2017, and a section of Butte County in 2018, a blaze that essentially destroyed the town of Paradise.

The court monitor also determined that PG&E appears to have stumbled into a bout of poor record-keeping in connection with its efforts to inspect and control vegetation and trees that could contribute to a future wildfire.

Faced with a forbidding landscape of wildfire-related claims and other liabilities, PG&E filed for bankruptcy in January, listing $51.69 billion in debts, hoping to ward off its creditors and reorganize its shattered finances.

State investigators have determined that PG&E’s equipment caused numerous fatal fires in recent years, including the lethal Camp Fire in Butte County in 2018.

The utility remains under intense pressure to lessen the chances of future wildfires, an effort that is now being officially put in doubt.

“PG&E is falling short of its enhanced vegetation management goals for the year,” the monitor’s report stated.

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Source:: The Mercury News


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