2019 Articles on PG&E
PG&E Sparked at Least 1,500 California Fires. Now the Utility Faces Collapse.
PG&E Corp. equipment started more than one fire a day in California on average in recent years as a historic drought turned the region into a tinderbox. The utility’s unsuccessful efforts to prevent such blazes have put it in a state of crisis. The fires included one on Oct. 8, 2017, when nearly 50-mile-an-hour winds snapped an alder tree in California’s Sonoma County wine country. The tree’s top hit a half-century-old PG&E power line and knocked it into a dry grass field, a state investigation found. The line set the grass ablaze, sparking what became known as the Nuns Fire.
The First Climate-Change Bankruptcy, Probably Not the Last
PG&E Corp.’s bankruptcy could mark a business milestone: the first major corporate casualty of climate change. Few people expect it will be the last. California’s largest utility was overwhelmed by rapid climatic changes as a prolonged drought dried out much of the state and decimated forests, dramatically increasing the risk of fire. On Monday, PG&E said it planned to file for Chapter 11 protection by month’s end, citing an estimated $30 billion in liabilities and 750 lawsuits from wildfires potentially caused by its power lines.
PG&E Delayed Safety Work on Power Line That Is Prime Suspect in California Wildfire
For five years, PG&E Corp. repeatedly delayed a safety overhaul of a century-old high-voltage transmission line that is a prime suspect behind the deadliest wildfire in California history. The company told federal regulators in 2013 it planned to replace many of the towers, wires and hardware pieces on the line, called the Caribou-Palermo, regulatory filings show. It again proposed the project in 2014, 2015 and 2016—pushing it back each year. The company planned to start work June 2018 and finish late last year. It hasn’t begun.
PG&E’s Radical Plan to Prevent Wildfires: Shut Down the Power Grid
PG&E Corp. can’t prevent its power lines from sparking the kinds of wildfires that have killed scores of Californians. So instead, it plans to pull the plug on a giant swath of the state’s population. No U.S. utility has ever blacked out so many people on purpose. PG&E says it could knock out power to as much as an eighth of the state’s population for as long as five days when dangerously high winds arise. Communities likely to get shut off worry PG&E will put people in danger, especially the sick and elderly, and cause financial losses with slim hope of compensation.
PG&E Knew for Years Its Lines Could Spark Wildfires, and Didn’t Fix Them
PG&E Corp. knew for years that hundreds of miles of high-voltage power lines could fail and spark fires, yet it repeatedly failed to perform the necessary upgrades.
Documents obtained by The Wall Street Journal under the Freedom of Information Act and in connection with a regulatory dispute over PG&E’s spending on its electrical grid show that the company has long been aware that parts of its 18,500-mile transmission system have reached the end of their useful lives.
A ‘Cat and Mouse Game’: PG&E’s Long Record of Run-Ins With Regulators and Courts
The Wall Street Journal identified repeated instances over 25 years in which PG&E misled regulatory authorities, withheld required information, didn’t follow through on promised improvements, engaged in improper back-channel communications with regulators or obstructed an investigation.
The company has paid more than $2.6 billion in state and federal penalties and lawsuit settlements in such cases. While the penalty came to less than $1 million in about a half-dozen of the incidents…