Who is protecting 16 million Californians from the No. 1 cause of wildfires in state history?
PG&E has been directly blamed for its equipment causing 1,500 plus wildfires in the six-year period from 2013 to 2016.
This is not a not a small deal.
The people who protect us — 40 million Californians from criminal behavior from corporations — whether they are regulatory agencies such as the California Public Utilities Commission and ultimately elected politicians in Sacramento that have authority over the bureaucracy that occupy constitutional or legislative offices have done such a miserable job that it borders on negligence and smells like malfeasance in office.
The powers in Sacramento have decided to entrust PG&E with the economic viability of 16 million Californians who have no choice but to rely on the morally bankrupt corporate culture by giving PG&E a third chance as a protected monopoly extended by the state to drive the utility into bankruptcy a third time so Wall Street hedge funds can prosper off the misery of PG&E ratepayers and its long list of victims that include those they have burned out, burned up, blow up, or slowly poisoned with toxic chemicals.
Keep in mind just a few months ago PG&E itself predicted the settlement they engineered after killing 84 people and virtually wiping the Town of Paradise off the map that they will earn a record profit of $2.4 billion by 2024. This will be done with annual rate increases of 8 percent through 2024 that will pay for equipment upgrades they systematically and recklessly diverted to pump up profits for years. Of the billions more ratepayers will pay for “safety” work that was already supposed to have been done with previous rate increases, the state is guaranteeing PG&E a profit of 10.5 percent. It makes Al Capone look like a pickpocket in comparison.
Sacramento politicians, proving they are cowards at the least, have declined to step up. Instead they have allowed PG&E to have limited consequences under laws they and their predecessors have passed and the courts must follow by passing the buck to the judicial system.
No one has required PG&E to follow the basic requirements of doing business as a protected monopoly in California. It might surprise you that state law essentially prevents corporations that engage in criminal acts or are not financially solvent to operate public utilities.
But here we are after two PG&E bankruptcies and two criminal convictions — one stemming from the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion that killed 8 people and 84 counts of manslaughter corporate brass admitted to from the 2018 Butte County — with PG&E free to do business in California.
What more does PG&E have to do before the state steps in and forces the sale of the company or take it over for the public good and public safety?
To see what exactly how big of a danger PG&E is to the health and safety of 16 million people all you need to do is visit the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) website.
Over the six year period from 2013 to 2019 wildfires burned 5.9 million acres or more than 5 percent of the state. There have been 47,238 wildfires, 165 deaths, and 40,142 structures — mostly homes — destroyed.
Right around 95 percent of all wildfires in California are caused by humans primarily through wanton behavior such as tossing cigarettes, sparks from operating equipment in areas of dry vegetation, or ignoring pressing maintenance on power lines as PG&E has done for years to line the pockets of corporate executives with bigger bonuses and fatten the return for Wall Street investors.
Of the 47,238 wildfires over the six year period, 1,500 or just over 3 percent were courtesy of PG&E.
Between Butte County and the wine country fires PG&E was responsible for either by admission or based on the conclusion of CAL FIRE investigators were 102 of the 165 deaths and 19,514 of the 40,142 structures that burned from 2013 and 2019.
And how are the 16 million Californians that are sitting ducks and captive money machines for Wall Street hedge funds supposed to take comfort from PG&E’s corporate promises to do better?
We’ve heard that same hollow and “contrite” corporate performances four times before. Once after they poisoned the drinking water the people of Hinkley depended on to save a few bucks, again after they tried to emulate Enron and sent the company into bankruptcy prompting major rate increases and bringing us rolling brown outs, when they blew up a San Bruno neighborhood and then tried to hide damaging evidence from the courts, and this month after admitting to killing 84 people, wiping out 18,800 structures in one fire, and bringing its customers planned multiple day power blackouts.
PG&E has a proven track record of not doing better. Each transgression has become bolder, more deadly, and more costly for captive ratepayers. PG&E after each public performance of promising to do better has gone on to kill more people, destroy more homes, displace more families, and take electrical and gas bills to levels that would make Enron executives envious.
All of this has happened not just because of PG&E’s unquenchable thirst to cut corners to increase profits but because Sacramento has allowed it to happen.
PG&E continues to exist as a protected monopoly with a track record of wanton disregard of public safety, a killer of at least 92 people by its own admission in Butte County and San Bruno, and burning out ratepayers and then settling losses for dimes on the dollar all thanks to the politicians and regulators in Sacramento.
The reason people have less faith in government than ever before has everything to do with how governments such as the State of California allow corporations like PG&E to break laws left and right while victimizing defenseless citizens all so they can keep making profits and cutting big campaign checks while underwriting junkets to places such as Hawaii for legislators who can be wined and dined into putting the needs of PG&E ahead of the safety and economic well-being of their constituents.