Stephen Ellison

PG&E Management to Tour Paradise, San Bruno to Satisfy Judge

PG&E has agreed to new probation terms that require its new chief executive and governing board to tour the towns of Paradise and San Bruno to satisfy a federal judge that the company understands the harm it has inflicted on the communities.

Judge William Alsup – who is overseeing PG&E’s criminal probation over the 2010 San Bruno disaster – floated the idea of a tour and other measures at a hearing on May 7 but left it to the parties to work out the details.

By then, the judge had already backed off on more ambitious proposals, including imposing a court order that the company shut off the power in advance of high winds to any part of its system it could not vouch was safe. The judge abandoned that idea after it met resistance from both the company and federal prosecutors as unworkable.

Under the judge’s latest proposal, the court would impose a July 15 deadline for the company’s new CEO, Bill Johnson, as well as its newly reconstituted board of directors and other unspecified high level executives to tour both the scene of the massive wildfire in the Butte County town of Paradise that left 86 dead last year, as well as the Crestmoor neighborhood in San Bruno struck by the gas explosion that left eight dead in 2010.

The goal of the tours, according to the new probation language all the parties agreed to submit Monday to the court is for the company “to gain a firsthand understanding of the harm inflicted on those communities and meet with victims and others stakeholders, such as firefighting personnel and/or city officials.”

Another new measure requires that PG&E’s board appoint a committee to assume direct responsibility over its compliance to the provisions of its wildfire safety plan. That plan includes expanded tree trimming efforts and inspections of power lines and expands its plan to shut off power to reduce the risk of fire in high wind conditions.

Under the plan now set to go back to Alsup for final approval, that committee would provide the full board with quarterly progress reports and be responsible for assuring the company addresses any shortfalls.

The new probation terms come after Alsup found PG&E failed to fully disclose to probation officials the provisions of an out of court settlement with Butte County prosecutors over the 2017 Honey fire.

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