PG&E shifts wine country wildfire blame to third-party equipment
- Pacific Gas & Electric in a legal filing last week tried to shift blame to third-party equipment as the cause of a massive wildfire last month that devastated Sonoma and Napa Counties in California's wine country.
- In the wake of the fire, officials from the state's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) revealed they were investigating the utility's power equipment as a possible cause.
- The utility's claim is based on a report it submitted to the California Public Utilities Commission, which notes that Cal Fire has taken possession of several pieces of equipment not owned by the utility, including distribution, transmission and overhead conductor equipment.
Not much is known about PG&E's claim — exact locations are redacted from the report and it appears to be the only mention of the equipment in question — but the utility is now embroiled in several lawsuits that blame it for fires last month that killed dozens of people and left more than 200,000 customers without power.
PG&E's report to regulators said that in addition to Cal Fire examining third-party equipment, "no damage to PG&E equipment was readily apparent. This information is preliminary and PG&E is fully cooperating with Cal Fire."
The San Francisco Chronicle also notes that the utility is attempting to block an effort to combine several fire-related lawsuits, instead preferring to tackle them individually based on discrete fires.
The utility declined to offer comment beyond its legal filing and the report, according to the Chronicle. Cal Fire told the paper their investigation was continuing and it could not speak to PG&E's claims.
“Our investigations are ours, and I’m not sure what PG&E is talking about," a spokesman said.
This isn't the first time the utility has faced an inquiry over its role in a wildfire; In April, the CPUC fined PG&E $8.3 million for failing to properly maintain a power line deemed responsible for sparking the 2015 Butte Fire.
The utility has $800 million in insurance, but according to Bloomberg, PG&E has warned that it could be "materially affected" if it is found liable and the damages exceed that amount. By some estimates, the fires' damage has exceeded $8 billion.
- San Francisco Chronicle PG&E says someone else’s wires may have started Tubbs Fire
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