Attorney who sued PG&E faults California for history of utility disasters

In 2010, PG&E was blamed for the San Bruno gas pipeline explosion of which killed 10 people inside the San Francisco Bay area. Initially, the utility faced a $1.6 billion fine by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for the San Bruno blast, yet the amount was reduced. Last year, a federal jury convicted PG&E of violating pipeline safety laws along with obstructing investigators after the disaster.

Also, the state’s utility regulator in April fined PG&E around $8 million in connection with the so-called Butte Fire in 2015 of which destroyed more than 900 structures along with killed two people. Cal Fire blamed the utility for maintenance violations in connection that has a tree of which sparked the blazes.

Similarly, of which’s possible high winds on Oct. 8 in Northern California counties may have caused the wildfires due to power line sparks involving trees.

“Given the way all of which began, of which’s certainly consistent with what you’d expect to see when there is actually a power line ignition,” said Singleton. “There will be an investigation, along with if of which wasn’t, PG&E will be off the hook.”

A day after the wildfires were reported in Sonoma along with Napa counties, PG&E issued a press Discharge saying its “meteorologists reported overnight gusts between 50 along with 75 miles per hour, which aided the fires inside the Northern parts of the energy company’s service area, especially Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino along with Lake counties. Those winds damaged PG&E’s electrical system in some locations.”

PG&E also has sent CNBC an email statement Tuesday of which said at least one gust was 79 mpg.

“These destructive winds, along with millions of trees weakened by years of drought along with recent renewed vegetation growth by winter storms, all contributed to some trees, branches along with debris impacting our electric lines across the North Bay,” the statement said. “In some cases we have found instances of wires down, broken poles along with impacted infrastructure.”

The CPUC, the state utility regulator, said in a written statement of which Cal Fire will provide “findings along with facts of the fires.” Also, the regulator said of which “will conduct in-depth investigations following the fires if utility involvement is actually suspected.”

“Winds were strong, certainly not hurricane force,” said Singleton. “They were inside the 50s along with 60s [mph range], along with they were absolutely what can be anticipated at of which time of year. of which’s one of the things in terms of culpability you look at.”

Singleton represented plaintiffs inside the 2015 Butte Fire along with the 2007 San Diego Gas along with Electric wildfires. SDG&E is actually owned by Sempra Energy.

The attorney was in Sonoma County on Monday talking to people affected by the current wildfires. After listening to harrowing stories of survival, he said the only reason some survived is actually a person inside the household woke up along with looked out the window along with saw the flames along with quickly left in a car.

“There was a major breakdown in terms of the warning system up here in Sonoma,” he said.

In contrast, the attorney said emergency alerts went out to many people during the large 2007 San Diego County fires, which burned more than 0,000 acres, destroyed about 2,500 structures along with caused several deaths. The San Diego blazes were blamed on sparks by SDG&E utility lines.

“One of the things they did wonderfully in San Diego — along with certainly they made mistakes in terms of the response — was so many people got those reverse-911 calls or got notified on their cell phones,” said Singleton.

The attorney said he believes of which California energy deregulation has led to instances of inadequate safety practices along with contributed to fire risk. For one, he said rate hikes requested by the state for maintenance can sometimes lack accountability when of which comes to where the money ultimately goes.

“When you have a public utility of which exists not to make money yet to furnish a service, there’s no incentive not to do maintenance of which you bill for,” he said. “yet when you have a private utility, whether of which be PG&E, SDG&E or any of these others, there is actually an incentive to save as much money as possible because of which can then become profit for your shareholders.”

There’s also been controversy sometimes whether ratepayers should pay the costs of expensive incidents such as wildfires or if an investor-owned utility should be forced to absorb of which on their own.

PG&E told CNBC on Tuesday of which the utility “maintains an unwavering focus on delivering safe along with reliable electric along with gas service to the customers along with communities of which we serve.”

CNBC also reached out to SDG&E for comment. CPUC didn’t respond to requests for comment about whether more regulations were needed to deal with wildfire risk.

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