PG&E Slapped with ‘Enhanced Oversight’ for Vegetation Management Modeling Problems

Already under fire for its vegetation management practices by the federal judge overseeing its criminal probation proceedings, PG&E got slammed Thursday by another one of its masters.

Citing numerous deficiencies in PG&E’s wildfire mitigation efforts, the California Public Utilities Commission voted to adopt a resolution that places PG&E on Step 1 of a six step ladder of “enhanced oversight” that at Step 6 would lead to “the potential revocation of PG&E’s ability to operate as a California electric utility.”

The six stages of oversight were established as part of the CPUC’s approval of PG&E’s plan of reorganization, the mechanism by which PG&E was able to exit from its Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.

The “triggering event” that sparked the CPUC’s order was a finding that PG&E has not made adequate progress in utilizing risk management tools to determine where its vegetation management efforts should be directed.

The management of trees and shrubbery throughout PG&E’s extensive system of power distribution and service lines is of great importance in reducing wildfires because when high winds blow trees or vegetation onto uninsulated wires, sparks can fall to the ground and ignite the dry grasses.

U.S. District Judge Alsup is currently considering proposals that would require PG&E to consider the risk of trees falling onto power lines as part of the conditions to its criminal probation.

Alsup has been highly critical of PG&E’s efforts to abate the risk of wildfires. In one recent order Alsup recounted what he called a “a stunning chapter in California history.”

According to his tally, since PG&E was placed on probation following a 2016 conviction for a 2010 gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, “PG&E has ignited 20 or more wildfires in California, killing at least 111 individuals, destroying at least 22,627 structures, and burning half a million acres.”

Alsup’s order recounted the grim specifics:  the Wine Country Fires in 2017 (22 dead, 3,256 structures destroyed); the Camp Fire in 2018 (85 dead, 18,793 structures burned); the Kincade Fire in 2019 (374 structures destroyed); and most recently the Zogg Fire in 2020 (4 dead, 204 structures destroyed).

Judge Alsup has frequently criticized PG&E for neglecting to perform vegetation management at required levels for a decade. The judge has also criticized CPUC for allowing that neglect.

The CPUC order requires among other things for PG&E to submit within 90 days a “corrective action plan” that explains in detail “how it will both perform risk modeling and use the results of risk modeling to ensure the highest risk power lines are prioritized for vegetation management.”

The action was based on an audit conducted the Wildfire Safety Division of the CPUC during the period from Oct. 21, 2020 to Feb. 5, 2021. The audit identified deficiencies in PG&E’s use of risk modeling to inform its vegetation management efforts.

26 Comments

  1. SJ Kulak,

    Trump was saying that the state of CA was not properlty managing the forests regarding the fires.

    THIS IS COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.

    PG&E owned the land, the lines, and the trees involved, and MISMANAGED them, making a fire hazard that in fact HAPPENED.

    So Trump was completely wrong. The STATE and FEDS are having to FORCE a PRIVATE company to take safety steps after a catastrophic FAILURE.

    TRUM P was WRONG.

  2. Where in the article does it say PG&E was the landowner and owns the trees?

    California has, in fact, totally mismanaged our wild lands for decades. Fires have been a part of the Western landscape forever. What we see now are catastrophic fires consuming homes and communities that are put in place with ZERO regard for historical fact.
    Wildfires are a matter of WHEN, not IF they occur. With this knowledge, wouldn’t it be in the state’s interest to mitigate this fact through proper planning of communities and altering building codes?
    Blaming the utility for this is convenient for the state. Will it change the accumulation of fuels in our national forests?
    Blame PG&E all you want, it’s not going to make the problem go away.

  3. WILLIAM ASHBLESS you wrote:

    “Where in the article does it say PG&E was the landowner and owns the trees?

    There are MORE articles remember this one “PG&E Pleads Guilty to 84 Counts of Manslaughter in Camp Fire Case “ (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/16/business/energy-environment/pge-camp-fire-california-wildfires.html#:~:text=They%20said%20local%20and%20state,political%20clout%20in%20the%20state.)

    The report indicated:”

    “Family members of the 84 people killed in California’s most devastating wildfire, in 2018, watched on YouTube as the executive, Bill Johnson, said that he had heard their “pain and anguish.”

    “I’m here today on behalf of the 23,000 men and women of PG&E to take responsibility for the fire that killed these people,” Mr. Johnson told Judge Michael R. Deems of Butte County Superior Court. “No words from me can ever reduce the magnitude of that devastation,” he added.

    It is unusual for corporations to plead guilty to felonies and acknowledge that their negligence caused the deaths of dozens of people. What is perhaps even stranger is that this is not the first time in recent years that PG&E has pleaded to or been found guilty of serious crimes. But the relatively small size of PG&E’s financial penalties could rekindle concerns that large corporations often escape appropriate punishment for their actions.

    As part of the plea agreement with the Butte County district attorney, PG&E will also pay $500,000 to cover the cost of the county’s investigation. Judge Deems has to approve that deal. Wall Street firms have paid much larger fines and penalties when settling cases stemming from the financial crisis of 2008.

    In 2016, a federal jury convicted PG&E of safety violations and obstruction of an investigation into a gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people in 2010 in San Bruno, a town south of San Francisco. The company is still under probation for those convictions.”

    So please don’t play like you didn’t know? You wrote:

    “California has, in fact, totally mismanaged our wild lands for decades. Fires have been a part of the Western landscape forever. What we see now are catastrophic fires consuming homes and communities that are put in place with ZERO regard for historical fact.”

    Actually the real problem that CA is dealing with is drought caused by long term climate change. And you know that. You wrote:

    “Wildfires are a matter of WHEN, not IF they occur. With this knowledge, wouldn’t it be in the state’s interest to mitigate this fact through proper planning of communities and altering building codes?”

    If the state actually started to do that, you would argue that it is micromanaging the citizens, and that it would be impermissible for the State to do it. You are just trying to avoid the facts PG&E was responsible for the problem and NOT the state of California. You wrote:

    “Blaming the utility for this is convenient for the state. Will it change the accumulation of fuels in our national forests?”

    You know that the utility in effect is a persistent spark looking for a fuel. Climate Change is a REAL problem and the state can do nothing about it now, we could have in the 1970-1980s, but it is too late to do anything about it now. You wrote:

    “Blame PG&E all you want, it’s not going to make the problem go away.”

    As pointed out, the utility plead guilty on the charges of manslaughter. So, they ADMITTED their guilt. Stop trying to distract the readers here. Of course you may work for PG&E, and you are in the situation of working for a company that went bankrupt for mismanagement itself.

  4. Goldstein:
    You certainly spend a lot of time reading my mind(or pretending that you do). That’s a sign of something. Care to guess what? I have a few ideas, but it’s not my ability or place to try and speak for others. THAT appears to be your job.

    You aren’t very good at it, though.

    Nice try but, California has a history of drought and horrible fire seasons going back centuries.
    And, while I do think people should buy whatever home they wish, I don’t think the building industry or the state actually wants that. The current system that allows for tens of thousands of homes needed to replace losses to fire is mighty powerful incentive not to change.

    So, PG&E executives plead guilty to felonies. All just for show. A felony is punishable by incarceration of a year or more in state prison. Umm, how much time did any of these execs actually do?
    Zero days in jail. Wow! That’ll teach them.

  5. WILLIAM ASHBLESS you wrote:

    “Nice try but, California has a history of drought and horrible fire seasons going back centuries.”

    But NONE as severe as what we are living with and the SCEINCE proves that. But you can continue riding “The Nile” You wrote:

    “And, while I do think people should buy whatever home they wish, I don’t think the building industry or the state actually wants that. The current system that allows for tens of thousands of homes needed to replace losses to fire is mighty powerful incentive not to change.”

    So, you say to the STATE you have to do something about the problem, but in the same sentence say “YOU CANNOT TELL US WHAT TO DO”. I worked in an environment once where I was told “SECURE THIS IT INFRASTRUCTURE” but at the same time I was told “YOU CANNOT CHANGE ANYTHING REGARDING THE EXISTING SYSTEM”. You see the problem? You are trying to criticize someone for doing something you refuse to let them perform. You wrote:

    “So, PG&E executives plead guilty to felonies. All just for show. A felony is punishable by incarceration of a year or more in state prison. Umm, how much time did any of these execs actually do?”

    NO IT IS NOT A SHOW. IT IS A CRIMINAL RECORD. IT IS A DECLARATION OF GUILT. You really don’t like having to read the real story. But there you are again riding “The Nile” (Denial) You wrote:

    “Zero days in jail. Wow! That’ll teach them.”

    I agree, anyone working for PG&E should ALL have been put in jail for the crime. Because the “I was ordered” to not take proper care of the problem is nothing but the “Nuremburg” defense and it doesn’t work

  6. By the way since it was 84 counts, doesn’t that mean 84 YEARS?

    I would say ok lets just issue 10% time for concrrent terms, so at least 8.4 years.

    THat will teach aanyone to stop playing games with safety.

  7. SJ Kulak,

    I am amazed you can type but cannot read.

    You seem to need people to read to you?

    To bad you don’t use the accessibility tools of Windows or a character to speech program.

    Never the less PG&E admitted they were the cause of the problem, and did it in CRIMNIAL court no less, a court where they were innocent until PROVEN GUILTY BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT.

    I find it funny that PRIVATE business winds up costing PUBLIC lives and expense, and TRIES to say it makes our lives better. COVID and other historical stories like the Great Recession proves that PRIVATE business demands the PUBLIC to repair or remedy for their FAILURE.

    Now don’t get me wrong, there are perhaps 100 GOOD businesses to 1 ULTRA BAD one, Perhaps 10 GOOD businesses to every 1 BAD one, and 5 GOOD businesses to every 1 INCOMPETENT one.

    But you add up those numbers 31 POOR performing or WORSE businesses out of 100 declare they have the right to force markets to make a profit for them.

    Real BUSINESS dictates that those 31 should be closed and they people in charge should NEVER be allowed to operate a business again.

    ESPECIALLY DONALD TRUMP WHO MIGHT BE OUT OF BUISESS NOW THAT THE RUSSIANS CANNOT FUND HIM ANYMORE. Unless he is laundering criminal money.

  8. Here is some scarey stuff:

    Per this website (https://www.usdebtclock.org/#) the total US Household assets are about $133.1 Trillion, and the US National Assets comes to $161.4 Trillion. BUT the Social Security Liability is $21.2 Trillion, the Medicare Liability is $32.8 Trillion and the US UNFUNDED Liability is $162.7 Trillion.

    You subtract The National Assets from the National UNFUNDED Liability and hope it doesn’t come out negative, if it does the system is completely broken. But $161.4 Trillion subtracted by $162.7 Trillion comes to a NEGATIVE $1.3 Trillion. DAMN the US is broke, and making more loans are not going to FIX the problem. This is not counting the FEDERAL debt.

  9. Steven Goldstein, as usual, your source information is dubious at best. Here is what Wikipedia says, which certainly has its own credibility issues. But, yours is certainly flawed.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Financial_position_of_the_United_States#:~:text=The%20financial%20position%20of%20the,GDP)%20as%20of%20Q1%202014.

    “The financial position of the United States includes assets of at least $269.6 trillion (1576% of GDP) and debts of $145.8 trillion (852% of GDP) to produce a net worth of at least $123.8 trillion (723% of GDP)[a] as of Q1 2014.”

  10. TRy Logic,

    Here is REAL LOGIC:

    Wikipedia os NOT a realiable source per anyones defintion remeber:

    THey even say so here(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reliability_of_Wikipedia#:~:text=Because%20Wikipedia%20cannot%20be%20considered,a%20pointer%20to%20external%20sources.):

    “Because Wikipedia cannot be considered a reliable source, the use of Wikipedia is not accepted in many schools and universities in writing a formal paper, and some educational institutions have banned it as a primary source while others have limited its use to only a pointer to external sources.[81][84][85] The criticism of not being a reliable source, however, may not only apply to Wikipedia but to encyclopedias in general—some university lecturers are not impressed when students cite print-based encyclopedias in assigned work.[86] However, it seems that instructors have underestimated the use of Wikipedia in academia because of these concerns. Researchers and academics contend that while Wikipedia may not be used as a 100 percent accurate source for final papers, it is a valuable jumping off point for research that can lead to many possibilities if approached critically. What may be missing in academia is the emphasis on critical analysis in regards to the use of Wikipedia in secondary and higher education. We should not dismiss Wikipedia entirely (there are less inaccuracies than there are errors of omission) but rather begin to support it, and teach the use of Wikipedia as an education tool in tandem with critical thinking skills that will allow students to filter the information found on the online encyclopedia and help them critically analyze their findings.[87]”

    Try logic, here is some mor REAL LOGIC:

    AND THAT DATA in the writing there is as little as 8 years old or more, it is NOT the CVURRENT data, like the resource i use here (https://www.usdebtclock.org/#), COVID and other things changed everything.

    So you just want to try to COVER UP the REALITY and REAL LOGIC

  11. It won’t matter much anyway we are about 79 years from EXTINCTION as a Species, we currently have 420 PPM CO2 in the air and when it reaches 5000PPM we will either have to live in domes, or we will have to wear breathing gear to go outside.

    CO2 Tixicity will kill off the human race.

    There is no way to avoid it except building huge CO2 removal systems or provide portable tanks. Either way the CO2 produced to make them will be a vicious circle. And nuclear energy will not solve it, and even renewables are liely not going to help either. We are already on the way to OBLIVION.

    And in about 2-300 years there won’t be a trace of modern man, except buildings made of plastic or natural stone, like the Pyramids and the Great Wall. It is almost laughable that the Human Species hasn’t yet WOKE to that? Carl Sagan warned us in the 1970s, but we did it to ourselves anyway, and now it is TOO LATE.

  12. Oh Goldberg, your so wrong again, AOC says we only have 12 years till the entire planet burst into flames, and that was 3 years ago so you only have 9 left. Every scientist in the world knows Bambi eyed debutant formerly known as Sandy from Yorktown Heights can not be challenged on any issue as she was once a bartender and is now de-facto Speaker of the House. To hell with Carl Sagan if he was smart he’d still be alive, billions and billions of seconds later.
    If we get rid all that toxic CO2, plants will die, Oxygen will not be made and what’s left here will suffocate in a cloud of methane and nitrogen gas.
    On the good side soda pop will be cheap to make.

  13. M.T.GUNN you wrote:

    “Oh Goldberg, your so wrong again, AOC says we only have 12 years till the entire planet burst into flames, and that was 3 years ago so you only have 9 left.”

    Actually I intentionally skipped the temperature problem all together BECAUSE it is really not as bad as being poisoned to death. By the way haven’t you noticed that practically EVERY business does not even make any plans regarding still being around in say 5 or 10 years? They know that things are going REALLY bad, and when the people realize we are on a dying planet for us, just watch the ANARCHY. You wrote:

    “Every scientist in the world knows Bambi eyed debutant formerly known as Sandy from Yorktown Heights can not be challenged on any issue as she was once a bartender and is now de-facto Speaker of the House.”

    I really do not care what a POLITICAIN says about this, when the ANARCHY hits government will go bye bye. You wrote:

    “To hell with Carl Sagan if he was smart he’d still be alive, billions and billions of seconds later.”

    Actually, he died because we are ALL mortal, he got sick with a respiratory illness resulting in pneumonia at the age of 62. There are illnesses that no one an actually prevent like myelodysplasia for two years and receiving three bone marrow transplants from his sister. In fact that disease is cancer which is known to either result from a bad mutation of a healthy cell, or the mutation caused by either an enrgy source or another toxin. But of course, you would hate one of the best Scientific Minds of the late 20th Century. You are anonymous person and as such have no educational background or expertise. You wrote:

    “If we get rid all that toxic CO2, plants will die, Oxygen will not be made and what’s left here will suffocate in a cloud of methane and nitrogen gas.”

    I never even tried to say we should do that. I am saying that the change in the CO2 toxicity problem, which came up during Apollo 13, is inevitable. We already lost the game regarding it. You wrote:

    “On the good side soda pop will be cheap to make.”

    But no one to make it, no one to drink it, ok I go with that

  14. Steve: I did site the fact Wikipedia has credibility issues, but only to illuminate that all sites should be viewed with skepticism. The debt clock site has as its intention to raise the alarm regarding (US, State, and even world wide). Hence, it is inherently biased toward reporting the US is insolvent. Even if 2014 data is old, the US didn’t get more insolvent in the past 7 years and even if it did, it didn’t get to the point where debts exceed assets–your whole point.

    Most fundamentally, you didn’t support your own point! The USA is not insolvent. In a wonkish way, remember that one person’s debt is another person’s asset. Therefore, only the future interest owed, and not the current or past interest paid can render the US insolvent because once again such payments merely become someone else’s assets. As far as recognizing currently, the value of all future interest payments can theoretically be done, but inflation will (it must) offset such values of the timeline of the payments.

    Not that you will understand how US Debt effects will actually evolve, but try googling “debt repudiation through inflation.”

    I’m not saying debt is good or bad, only pointing out that it doesn’t render a country bankrupt. Only the inability to make debt payments ever rendered any debtor bankrupt.

  15. Oh Goldberg, CO2 isn’t toxic or we would already be dead, with out it we would be dead we would, never have existed. Seems like the solar cell and electric car industry are planning to be around for a long time. Personally I’d like to see a wind farm off Martha’s Vineyard and another off the Great Highway. Wouldn’t you agree Mt Goldberg? The power source needs to be close to the consumer.
    But then again the Democrap Party is the Party of Death so what ever Joe Buydung is planning for us, you my well be right. He’s going to get us all killed.

  16. TRY LOGIC you wrote:

    “Steve: I did site the fact Wikipedia has credibility issues, but only to illuminate that all sites should be viewed with skepticism. The debt clock site has as its intention to raise the alarm regarding (US, State, and even world wide). Hence, it is inherently biased toward reporting the US is insolvent. Even if 2014 data is old, the US didn’t get more insolvent in the past 7 years and even if it did, it didn’t get to the point where debts exceed assets–your whole point.”

    No bias involved, what happened is COVID crushed a lot of the values used in the past. What you are really saying is that IF I cant have MY FACTS be the only ones, you want to DESTROY them ALL. So that has been the logic behind Donald Trump and many of his copies in politics today. You though also said:

    “Most fundamentally, you didn’t support your own point! The USA is not insolvent. In a wonkish way, remember that one person’s debt is another person’s asset.”

    NOT IF EVERYONE IS IN DEBT OR USING ASSETS VIA MARK TO MARKET ACCOUNTING. WHICH IS THE STANDARD METHODE. I would love to see you provide any business accounting report or personal finances that indicates that they are not COUNTING debt as WEALTH. Again a persons home is only worth the money it gets sold for, not just sitting in another person’s possession. That is FICTION. You wrote:

    “Therefore, only the future interest owed, and not the current or past interest paid can render the US insolvent because once again such payments merely become someone else’s assets.”

    WRONG , THE PRINCIPAL AND ALL OTHER COSTS ARE THE COSTS OF BUSINESS. IN FACT COMPUNDED INTEREST IS THE PROBLEM BECAUSE THE PRINCIPALS ARE NOT GOING DOWN AND THE VALUES ARE INCREASING ONLY ON PAPER NOT REAL. You wrote:

    “As far as recognizing currently, the value of all future interest payments can theoretically be done, but inflation will (it must) offset such values of the timeline of the payments.

    Not that you will understand how US Debt effects will actually evolve, but try googling “debt repudiation through inflation.””

    Actually if you noticed I was not even talking about the FEDERAL debt in my calculation, that resource indicates the PRIVATE ASSETS and PRIVATE DEBT, so that comment is off topic. You wrote:

    “I’m not saying debt is good or bad, only pointing out that it doesn’t render a country bankrupt. Only the inability to make debt payments ever rendered any debtor bankrupt.”

    AGAIN the PRIVATE ASSETS are in deficit to the PRIVATE DEBT, not the government. Thus, the FEDERAL DEBT just makes it worse. Again NO ONE wants to see the 800lb gorilla in the room.

    So sad.

  17. M.T.GUNN you wrote:

    “Oh Goldberg, CO2 isn’t toxic or we would already be dead, with out it we would be dead we would, never have existed.”

    The level of CO2 AT 5000 PPPM is deadly, you are just not bothering to even read what is happening. I said currently there is 420 PPM in the air, definitely not yet toxic, but on its way. And there is no way to stop it, I even find it funny to think if we cut CO2 50% today or all of it, it may not be able to do any better. I think we crossed the threshold already and there is no going back. You wrote:

    “Seems like the solar cell and electric car industry are planning to be around for a long time. Personally I’d like to see a wind farm off Martha’s Vineyard and another off the Great Highway. Wouldn’t you agree Mt Goldberg? The power source needs to be close to the consumer.”

    Power is not the only production of CO2, there are so many others even a volcano can emit more CO2 in the air as 50% of the CO2 produced in a country for a year in just a few days. And to produce all of what you need to “TRANSISION” to green energy requires the continuing production of CO2, it would take tens of years for that to balance. But again we probably don’t have it now. You wrote:

    “But then again the Democrap Party is the Party of Death so what ever Joe Buydung is planning for us, you my well be right. He’s going to get us all killed.”

    I am not a DNC or a GOP I just call it for what it is.

  18. CM,

    THat might have worked 20 years ago.

    But look at us regarding COVID? We can’t seem to get ourselves together on the Pandemic. It is FAR from over and it is likely to get bad again. Remember also the spread is still not contollled by any vaccine, and possibly it may be that they don’t. Pfizer admits their vaccine doesn’t lat very long 6 nonths to a year at most. And the variants are going to continue to make vaccines less effective. The use of vaccines was based on an emergency, not a scientific proven result.

    When we start seeing that infections still don’t stop even for the vaccinated, then another wave of anger and frustration will overcome the human species.

    Planting trees requires the harvesting ot tree seedlings, their proper preperation for planting, transport to the site, doing the planting, and the care it takes to ensure the seedling survives. ALL OF WHICH WLL PRODUCE MORE CO2, AND WILL REQUIRE FUEL TO PERFORM IT.

    It is never that simple.

  19. And what is amazing is everything that any “country” achieved on earth will mostly disintergrate, and all of us will never be remembered for anything. Especially the abstract concept of earthling economics.

  20. Try Logic,

    And the fact tha I have 2 BS in Business Management does not totally disqualify my knowledge.

    Remember in the BIG SHORT “Derivatives ” and many people putting bets on a single property, praying to god that they don’t lose values because that is the “collateral”

    What happened was that “investment” banks bought “derivatives” and those that had a 1% failure multiplied into as many “investors” that bought the derivative (Mortgage Backed Security) or (Credit Default Swap) In some cases 10 “investors” took the bet, thus all ten lost value mtultplied by 10.

    I had to demonstrate competency in Economics and Accounting at my Buisness School along with my expertise in Management Information systems and Human Resource Management.

    Which both carry a lot of Applied Accounting, right?

    Maybe you can engrave your balance sheet on a stone, but whether the paper decomposes, the computers breakdown and the data is lost, or a hard disk maybe in space fails, your efforts are toast too. Face it NO ONE GETS OUT ALIVE and unless we move to another planet, wer are DOOMED ALL OF US.

  21. Does anybody else wonder why Goldstein’s weekend pass from Agnews hasn’t been revoked?

    He’s pretty much evidence of why momma said, “Never wrestle with a pig”.

  22. Goldberg,
    You don’t have to repeat everything I wrote this is not a High School English class.
    You are of course right no one on this planet gets out alive. Just which planet are you planning to move to that grants it’s visitors immortality? Will you exterminate that population with Covid Wuhan when you arrived? Do they have free medical for all new emigrants and a Wikipedia that doesn’t tell lies. How about a stock market to make a guy with 2 business degrees rich ? You could sell earthlings as slave labor. That all sucks I know, but you could blame Christopher Columbus for inspiring you.

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