CPUC Fines PG&E for Safety Failures

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued a $50,000 fine to Pacific Gas and Electric Company on Monday for failure to safely maintain its Metcalf Substation near San Jose.

The Metcalf electrical substation was the site of a 2013 attack which caused millions of dollars of damages. The fine, however, is for the more recent 2014 burglary of the station. Burglars breached the substation's fence in August 2014 and stole construction equipment worth approximately $40,000.

The break-in went undetected by PG&E's promised "enhanced security" upgrades. The file follows an NBC Bay Area Investigation which showed that PG&E was years away from the robust security measures it claimed were already in place.

In a press release today, the CPUC criticized PG&E for their slow reaction to the break-in and their lack of preventative measures. "In April 2013, the Metcalf Substation was attacked by gunfire," wrote the CPUC, "which not only should have prompted PG&E to review their security measures, but also gave PG&E time to implement improved security."

The fine follows recent suggestions from the CPUC's new president Michael Picker that the regulator will take a harder stance toward PG&E.

In a recent interview with NBC Bay Area, Picker said “I think we need to hold [PG&E] accountable. And if we find they are unable to perform then we’ll have to figure out what we can legally do. Nobody knows what it would take to revoke PG&E’s franchises.”

Last week the CPUC voted to launch a formal audit of PG&E.

"We need to get to the root of the problem and determine why PG&E keeps having safety-related issues," Picker said.

The attitude is a sharp turn from the previous CPUC administration. Under its former president Michael Peevey, the CPUC was widely criticized for what many perceived to be an overly cozy relationship with PG&E.

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