Jan 7, 2019
California regulators found that Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) routinely falsified safety records for a five-year period between 2012 and 2017. According to an investigation, the utility first failed to locate and mark its pipelines for construction crews within the legal time limit; and then falsified records to cover it up. The report also explains the reason behind all this: PG&E did not hire enough workers to do the work. In other words, the company put its profit above public safety.
It’s nothing new – PG&E has a long record of safety violations. For example, after a 2010 gas explosion in San Bruno, California, which killed eight people and destroyed practically a whole neighborhood, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) fined PG&E 1.6 billion dollars. The CPUC said that “issues with the utility’s pipe records and procedures played a role” in that explosion. In 2017, a federal judge also found PG&E guilty on six felony charges in relation to the San Bruno disaster. Both the CPUC and the federal court put PG&E under probation.
But apparently, PG&E continued to ignore safety regulations. The CPUC fined PG&E 10.8 million dollars after a house explosion in Carmel, California, in 2014, and then fined the company again in 2016, this time 25.6 million dollars, in relation to gas record-keeping.
Finally, there are the recent wildfires caused by downed PG&E power lines. California’s firefighting agency, Cal Fire, found that downed PG&E lines caused more than a dozen large wildfires in October 2017, killing more than 40 people and destroying thousands of homes. In eight of these cases, Cal Fire decided, PG&E should be prosecuted for violating safety laws.
So PG&E executives continued to ignore safety rules AFTER they got caught and fined, and WHILE the company was under probation. In other words, these PG&E executives acted as hardened, brazen criminals, whose actions caused continuing deaths and property damage.
California authorities not only have still not brought criminal charges against PG&E executives; they have in fact encouraged this criminal behavior by issuing fines that were always small compared to the billions of dollars of profit that this huge company makes every year.
These criminals in grey suits, who repeatedly harm thousands of people in the name of profit, are guilty and should pay a price along with the billionaires who profit from big energy. But finally, it is the capitalist system that has to be done away with, because it’s capitalism that puts profit above human life.