Jan 21, 2019
Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) of California recently announced that it plans to file for bankruptcy protection by the end of January. PG&E’s current liability for the recent fires in Paradise can reach to 30 billion dollars and it would avoid paying for these liabilities by declaring bankruptcy. The fires in Paradise in November killed 86 people and destroyed 14,000 homes. This fire was sparked when a PG&E electric power line of 115,000 volts dislodged from a tower.
PG&E is the largest utility company in California, providing natural gas and electricity to 16 million people. But, as state inspectors found again and again over the years, the company has neglected maintenance, repair and safety work of these natural gas and electricity lines – despite the fact that this very profitable company charges its customers very high rates.
One reason for such failures is that PG&E has aged equipment. The company reported that more than 16,000 sections of its high-voltage lines fell, mainly due to equipment failures, between 2013 and 2017. The company did not upgrade this equipment.
Another reason for these failures is that PG&E needs to clear trees and vegetation around the power lines. Since 2010, the state inspectors found that PG&E was behind schedule in completing such maintenance and repair work.
Fires, such as the one in Paradise, could have been avoided. But did PG&E take responsibility for executing these vital upgrades and repairs and maintenance – NO! And the State of California even allocated money for such work between 2007 and 2017, but PG&E spent less than half of these state funds in the meantime!
What do you call it when a utility company, such as PG&E, can find money to reward its executives and shareholders; can charge outrageous rates to consumers; can now try to walk away from its responsibility for the deaths and the loss of thousands of homes in Paradise? Try grand theft and mass murder, for starters.