PG&E ordered to revise its wildfire prevention plan

10 May 2021

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USA – PG&E has been ordered to revise its plan to prevent more fires from sparking by failing electrical equipment as fire season gets off to an early start.

The utility has until the beginning of June to revise its 2021 Wildfire Mitigation Plan.

This comes after the California Public Utilities Commission’s Wildfire Safety Division found several issues.

Senate Bill 901, signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in 2018, requires utility companies to submit wildfire mitigation plans to be approved by the CPUC within three months. The three-month deadline recently passed and was extended by at least another month so PG&E can make corrections.

The CPUC’s Public Advocates Office first sounded the alarm in April. The independent watchdog group says that PG&E isn’t prioritizing vegetation management and inspections in high-risk areas.

“Their response to this overall issue has been like somebody driving a car at night without the headlights on and saying, ‘we’re perfectly safe, it doesn’t matter until the highway patrol pulls us over, then we’re unsafe,'” said Dr. Nathaniel Skinner, Safety Branch Manager with the Public Advocates Office.

The Wildfire Safety Division says that PG&E is actually spending less money on clearing vegetation from power lines and other equipment, contradicting claims that they’re hiring more people to do the work.

Other concerns in the report include quality control and verifying how money spent reduces wildfire risk.

“There is still time for corrections to happen and for PG&E to fix its failures, to get people completing the full inspections, to make sure they’re spending more money on vegetation management and less on bonuses for executives,” Skinner said. ” But time is running short.”

KRCR reached out to PG&E and was provided the following statement:

The most important responsibility that we have as a company is to keep our customers and communities safe. We are working every day to improve our electric system and further reduce wildfire risk around it. We know we have more to do, and we are committed to doing it the right way. We continue to welcome these observations and feedback about our performance because we know this makes us better and safer.

While we largely delivered on our 2020 Wildfire Mitigation Plan, we identified several gaps in our execution that we’ve tackled head-on. We’re focused on resolving those gaps in our 2021 Plan and further improving the quality and consistency of our work. These include prioritizing enhanced vegetation management work, quality of vegetation management activities and prioritizing the scheduling and execution of asset inspections. We are also engaging in discussions with the WSD on a periodic basis to review many aspects of our wildfire mitigation efforts to ensure timely, thorough and transparent communication.

We continue to evaluate, evolve and refine our approaches to further reduce wildfire risk and get better this year and beyond. We want our customers, stakeholders and the public to know that we are committed to reducing the risk on our system and continuously improving our approaches to make California a better and safer place for our customers and communities.

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