Judge Wants PG&E Bonuses Solely Tied to Wildfire Goals

NBCUniversal, Inc.

A federal judge on Friday threatened to make PG&E bonuses conditional on meeting wildfire safety promises.

U.S. Judge William Alsup recently threatened to order the utility, as part of its probation stemming from the San Bruno gas explosion, to hire enough crews to meet its commitments to trim trees away from power lines.

That came after the company acknowledged it has not kept pace with its probation goals for inspecting and trimming trees that could fall onto lines, and that it’s fallen short on maintenance targets, as well.

Last year,  bankruptcy Judge Dennis Montali let the company hand out $350 million in mid-level management bonuses but blocked up to $16 million it wanted to give to a dozen top executives, saying  “there is simply no justification for diverting additional estate funds to incentivize them to do what they should already be doing” related to safety.

Montali held the door open if the company wanted to provide bonuses in the form of stock for meeting safety targets, but the company has yet to seek them.

Now, Judge Alsup has raised the prospect of going further, asking the company to justify why he should not order it to “restrict all bonuses and other incentives for supervisors and above exclusively to achieving the PG&E Wildfire Mitigation Plan and other safety goals.”

The utility sent us a statement saying, “PG&E shares the court’s commitment to safety and recognizes that we must take a leading role in keeping our customers and communities safe from the ever-growing threat of wildfire. This focus on public and workforce safety is our most important responsibility at PG&E. We will respond to today’s order within the deadline set by the court.”

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