A federal judge has ordered Pacific Gas & Electric to account for what it knew about the risk of worn hooks on its system in light of a 1987 internal report of tests showing a risk of premature failure in worn hooks taken off its electric transmission towers – hooks similar to the one blamed for the massive and deadly Camp Fire.
"With respect to the extent to which PG&E had been aware of the C-hook problem, please respond specifically to the attached news story stating PG&E was so aware as early as 1987," U.S. Judge William Alsup directed the utility, including the web version of the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit’s story about the internal report that aired Dec. 11.
PG&E hasn’t responded to the findings of the February 1987 evaluation of hooks with "grooves worn in them" that was performed in light of "a concern that they may not be able to hold the weight" of electrical lines due to the hooks "swinging in the wind over a period of time."
Tests done on two worn hooks -- and a third hook without visible wear -- all showed they failed at thresholds far below the 30,000 pounds they were designed to handle. The hooks were taken from a transmission line near the Contra Costa county town of Rodeo near Interstate 80.
PG&E ordered more tests because of the findings, but tested hook samples from storage. The company left old and worn so-called C-hooks in place, as well as worn steel plates used to hold hooks onto towers. Crews found hanger plates showing similar wear during post-Camp fire inspections on the Caribou-Palermo transmission line.
While it did not account for the 1987 report, PG&E has said it inspected all its transmission lines in high-fire risk areas and shut down the Caribou-Palermo system following the fire. Those inspections found at least one additional worn hook on the same line where the two worn hooks were recovered and tested in 1987.
The utility must respond by noon Thursday to Judge Alsup’s questions about C-hooks and prior inspections of the line.