SAN FRANCISCO (CBS13) — The California Public Utilities Commission issued two staff citations totaling $8.3 million to Pacific Gas & Electric for violations that were discovered by the CPUC’s investigation into the Butte fire.
The commission cited the utility for “failing to maintain its 12 kV overhead conductors safely and properly.” According to the CPUC, the violation stretches back to January 2015, when it says PG&E and it’s contractors failed to identify that the removal of nearby trees would create a hazardous condition with a gray pine tree and could make contact with the 12-kilovolt line. The commission says the tree eventually made contact with the line on September 9th and started the Butte Fire. The citation was issued for the maximum allowable amount of $8M.
PG&E received another citation for $250,000 “for failure to timely report to the CPUC that PG&E’s facilities may have been linked to the ignition of the Butte Fire.” According to the commission, the investigation showed that the utility company was aware of the possible link on September 11th 2015, but didn’t report it to the CPUC until September 16th, 2015. The CPUC says they require utilities to notify the commission within 2 hours during normal business hours, or within 4 hours during non-business hours.
PG&E also received a $50,000 citation for failing to maintain a minimum distance between the power lines and the tree.
CBS 13 received a statement on the citations from Pacific Gas and Electric:
“PG&E received the citations from the CPUC and we are currently reviewing them. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the victims and the communities who suffered losses as a result of the Butte fire. From the beginning, we have been committed to doing the right thing in regard to claims, many of which already have been addressed and resolved.”
According to the California Public Utilities Commission, PG&E has 30 days to contest or pay the citations. The Butte fire burned more than 70,000 acres, destroyed 921 structures and resulted in two deaths and one injury.