PG&E Faces $7.5 Million in Regulatory Fines

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State regulators issued $7.5 million in safety citations Monday against Pacific Gas and Electric over alleged inspection lapses covering more than a decade.

One of the actions, a $5 million citation, alleges the utility, between 2009 and 2018, failed to properly inspect a major transmission system running through the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, serving the city of Sausalito. The company, regulators say, failed to identify serious safety threats on 21 of its transmission towers on its Ignacio-Alto-Sausalito system – including heavily worn C-hooks -- over that decade period.

It was a worn C-hook on a transmission tower that snapped in 2018, touching off the Camp Fire that destroyed the town of Paradise and left 85 people dead.

The company says it is in the process of replacing or repairing the aged equipment in that transmission system.  

In a second citation, carrying a separate $2.5 million fine, PG&E is accused of failing to carry out required full inspections on 54,755 distribution poles, many in high fire threat areas, that were due by last year.

The failure was first reported by NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit. Documents revealed that although the utility promised to inspect those lines by last year as part of its wildfire safety plan, it failed to meet its commitment. While many of the lines involved were given drone-based visual checks in 2019, more than 4,000 of the poles were not inspected at all.

PG&E has since completed the required full inspections on the poles, which involves checking them for dry rot and treating to prevent damage.

“The safety of our customers and the communities we serve is PG&E’s most important responsibility,” the company said in its response to the citations.

PG&E said it discovered “issues with some of our equipment inspection processes and findings” between 2019 and this year, and reported them to state regulators. “PG&E also created corrective-action plans to resolve the issues safely and as quickly as possible, including completing missed inspections and making high-priority transmission-line replacements,” the company said. “Those actions do not change the fact that we fell short of our commitment to our customers and communities in each instance.”

The company says it will continue to “implement a robust series of corrective actions, and we are working hand in hand with the CPUC’s Safety and Enforcement Division to show how we continue to improve our processes.”

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