the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist
“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx
Feb 14, 2022
Five years ago, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), the utility that serves about 16 million people in Northern California, was put on criminal probation after its conviction for six felony crimes from a 2010 explosion triggered by its natural gas lines that blew up a San Bruno neighborhood and killed eight people.
Over those five years, PG&E became an even bigger destructive force, causing over 1,500 wildfires, including 5 of the state’s 10 most destructive. These fires killed over a hundred people, destroyed thousands of buildings, burned hundreds of thousands of acres and amassed over $30 billion in damages.
PG&E even pleaded guilty to 84 felony counts of involuntary manslaughter for the 2018 Camp Fire that wiped out the town of Paradise. And PG&E faces more criminal charges in two separate cases, for the massive Kincade Fire that burned in Sonoma County in 2019 and for the deadly Zogg Fire that burned in Shasta County in 2020. The company also faces potential criminal charges for causing this year’s Dixie Fire, the second largest blaze in the state’s history.
“In these five years, PG&E has gone on a crime spree and will emerge from probation as a continuing menace to California,” U.S. District Judge William Alsup wrote in a report reviewing his oversight of the utility—oversight which changed little or nothing and is now over.
Behind these disasters is a systemic policy to cut corporate expenses by not properly updating and maintaining its equipment. As Judge Alsup wrote, “A large part of the wildfire problem has been sloppy inspection and clearance work (almost exclusively outsourced to independent contractors).”
So, what actual consequences does PG&E face for causing all these disasters? The state of California has stepped in to bail out and shore up this company by forcing taxpayers and customers to bear the risks and pay the costs of future disasters. Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who received $280,400 in campaign contributions from PG&E, rammed a massive utility bailout bill (AB 1054) through the California Legislature, also dominated by the Democratic Party, this past July. This “Newsom Bailout” will allow PG&E access to the $21 billion fire insurance plan provided by the state, as well as to charge ratepayers for the cleanup of their wildfire costs.
One of the greatest beneficiaries of this state-sponsored bailout are 20 Wall Street hedge funds. These hedge funds speculated on the wild swings in PG&E’s stock price when a series of fires tore through Northern California in 2017. After the state-sponsored bailout was announced last year, the 20 hedge funds sold off most of their massive stockholdings, making a profit of over two billion dollars.
In fact, PG&E is an enormous company that uses its position and power to gain ever more profits for its largest shareholders in every way possible, that is, through murder and mayhem.