Forest Fire in the distance

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Judge issues statements regarding PG&E emerging from probation

PG&E has been serving a five-year term of felony probation by court order, but that will end on January 25, 2022. The judge overseeing the case has made some parting observations and made a statement publicly to discuss the expectation for the future of the company.

According to the judge, the rehabilitation of an offender is the primary goal of probationary periods. The goal is to rehabilitate the person or company to do better in the future and to make it more likely that they will not reoffend.

“I must acknowledge failure”

The judge does not believe that PG&E has been rehabilitated despite the probationary period coming to an end. In fact, in the last five years, PG&E-related wildfires have not ceased. PG&E has set and been responsible for:

  • At least 31 wildfires
  • .5 million acres of burned land
  • 113 Californian deaths
  • The loss of 23,956 structures

The company has previously plead guilty to manslaughter charges related to the 2018 Camp Fire in Butte County case, and it still faces additional felony and/or misdemeanor charges for the 2019 Kincade Fire, 2020 Zogg Fire and 2021 Dixie Fire.

In five years, probation has done little to help

Based on the judge’s statements, the last five years have not been free of incidents caused by PG&E. The judge goes on further to state that, in his opinion, the company is a continuing menace to the state.

PG&E uses an outsourcing model in its work, but this limits how it can respond to hazards. For example, it stated that it had a hard time finding outside arborists, but the company could have trained its own in-house. In the future, this outsourcing model will continue to be an obstacle to rehabilitation, the judge pointed out.

Another issue is that the company’s wish for safety does not necessarily outweigh its “obsession” for keeping power running where it’s needed. For instance, when the probationary period began, the company had no kind of Public Safety Power Shutoff program. When the court proposed changes to make it possible to deenergize lines, it resisted.

PG&E emerged from probation at the end of January, and while the court wishes it well, the judge was clear that systematic problems may continue to cause issues that put the public at risk.