UN Court

State Legislator Wants Regulators to Order PG&E to Re-Inspect its Towers in Fire Prone Areas

A state legislator wants regulators to order Pacific Gas and Electric to re-inspect its transmission network in fire prone areas in light of findings of an NBC Bay Area investigation. We uncovered the suspected cause of the Camp fire is the failure of a single steel hook that held up a high voltage transmission line on an aging transmission tower.

“It needs to be checked, and it needs to be checked soon,” said State Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) about the company’s high voltage system — including the 100 year old vintage towers at the origin of the Nov. 8 fire.

Sources with knowledge of the matter say the investigation is focusing on the failure of a steel hook suspended from an arm of a tower built about 1920.

Hill – who has been highly critical of both the utility and state regulators since the San Bruno gas explosion in 2010 — says NBC Bay Area’s findings raise new questions about how well the utility knows its system, especially since similar gaps were discovered following the San Bruno fire.

“They don’t know the age, they don’t know the condition, they haven’t inspected properly,” Hill said of PG&E’s 18,000 mile high voltage transmission network, “and they really have no grasp of the safety and the quality of their infrastructure.”

When contacted by NBC Bay Area’s investigative unit, state regulators with the Public Utilities Commission did not respond to Hill’s demand.

“Regarding whether we’ve directed PG&E to check or inspect its transmission towers for any problems or potential problems, we cannot discuss any aspect of our investigation,” the agency said in a statement.

PG&E also did not respond to questions about whether they are performing any new inspections of transmission equipment following the fire.

“The cause of the Camp Fire is still under investigation,” the company said in a statement.

“Right now, we are focused on assessing infrastructure, restoring power where possible, and helping our customers and communities recover from the Camp Fire. We are fully cooperating with any investigations.”

PG&E is currently on federal probation for pipeline safety violations and obstruction of justice in connection with the San Bruno investigation.

The federal judge overseeing that case recently asked that the state Attorney General’s office report back to the court about whether it has found the company may have broken laws in any of the recent fires, including the North Bay fires last year.

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