PG&E Faces Federal Probation Violation Charge Over Zogg Fire

PG&E is facing a new probation violation charge stemming from the deadly Zogg Fire, court documents show, even as its five-year probation term over the San Bruno gas explosion case is up early next year.

In a filing in federal court in San Francisco late Wednesday, federal probation officials added allegations that the company violated its probation terms stemming from the 31 charges Shasta County prosecutors filed in September for the September 2020 fire that left four dead.

“Based on the foregoing, there is probable cause to believe that Pacific Gas and Electric Company violated the conditions of their Probation,’’ a federal probation official said in the filing lodged Wednesday. “Therefore, I ask the Court to incorporate the additional violation into all future proceedings.”

The Zogg Fire has been blamed on a leaning tree that prosecutors said had a cavity and had been marked for removal but was left standing at the time it fell, sparking the fire.

The company is already facing probation violations stemming from the 2019 Kincade Fire in Sonoma county. The company still faces criminal counts, including several air quality violations that the company is challenging.

While it made no admission of wrongdoing in the Kincade fire, PG&E recently settled with state regulators and agreed to pay $125 million -- $40 million in fines and $85 million in costs of fully decommissioning 70 energized but unused parts of its transmission system. The Kincade fire has been blamed on PG&E’s failure to properly decommission a line that once served a shuttered geothermal plant. Cal Fire found the line was partly disconnected from a clamp and so was allowed to twist and sway in winds until it finally broke.

The company says that although the “mothballed” line was not being used, it continued to keep it energized and inspect it with the understanding it could be used in the future.

It is unclear what impact the latest federal probation violations might have, however, as Judge William Alsup has repeatedly stressed that his oversight cannot be extended past the five year probationary period ending in February.

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