The people who supposedly have the back of California consumers against the bottom line profit driven utilities that kowtow to the wishes of Wall Street hedge funds are advancing a plan that PG&E won’t get slapped on the wrist again until “an event” destroys 1,000 or more dwellings or commercial structures.
The green light to allow PG&E to destroy up to 999 homes in a single event is contained in Appendix A of the California Public Utilities Commission staff report filed before its governing board on Feb. 18, 2020.
It references at what point the state watchdog agency would step in if PG&E emerges from bankruptcy and again is unleashed to pursue — in the words of the for-profit utility’s Securities & Exchange Commission filing on the same day — “record profits” just five years after nearly wiping out the Town of Paradise, killing 85 people, and destroying 19,000 homes and other buildings.
That “step in” is to simply appoint a chief restructuring officer so the Godzilla headquartered at 555 Beale St. in San Francisco can rise once again to rain fire and destruction down on Northern California cities.
The state is saying it is OK for PG&E to cause “an electric or gas safety incident that results in the destruction of 1,000 or more dwellings or commercial structures” before the CPUC would step in to appoint a chief restructuring officer.
The words in the filing clearly say “destruction” and not “damaged” meaning a PG&E “incident” would need to burn or explode your house and that of 999 other people down to the foundation before the state will get of its duff and do essentially nothing given the aim of the Feb. 18 document filed with the CPUC is to keep the PG&E profit machine intact and humming regardless of the toll it takes on Northern California.
That means 999 lucky PG&E customers can expect to see their homes and virtually all of their worldly possession, pets, and perhaps a family member or two during every unique “incident” PG&E’s accumulative negligence triggers without the state doing much of anything.
Nothing in the 17 page appendix references a threshold for acceptable deaths from a PG&E “incident.
The state is making it abundantly clear that it views PG&E customers as justifiable collateral damage in order to pursue its primary mission of propping up PG&E.
It is clear more than ever that the CPUC is an enabler and not an oversight agency whose bottom line is whether a for-profit utility should be allowed to continue to do business in California.
The threshold the state is setting for itself to take action would require a gas pipeline explosion almost 30 times more destructive than the one in Sept. 9, 2010 that wiped out 36 homes in a San Bruno neighborhood. If the same proportional loss of life occurs that means 240 people would need to die before the CPUC moved in to prop up PG&E.
It gets worse.
A Wall Street Journal article based on state fire records identified more than 1,500 wildfires PG&E equipment was blamed for starting during a 3 1/2 year period from June 2014 to December 2017. In recent years PG&E caused wildfires have destroyed thousands upon thousands of homes although only two of those by themselves did the loss of homes to fire exceed 1,000 per incident.
It means the state will keep letting PG&E exist and continue doing business “the PG&E way” even if in any given year “incidents” their equipment destroyed 20,000 homes collectively as long as no single incident exceeded 999 homes destroyed.
Keep in mind this is not a business plan being suggested by PG&E but rather a regulation being considered by the state watchdog agency that’s supposed to keep PG&E operating in the best interests of Californians.
Let’s break this down even further. The CPUC is perfectly OK with PG&E “per incident” severely disrupting the lives of 2,997 people (assuming 3 people per house destroyed). Whether any of those 2,997 people are killed during a specific PG&E caused incident carries absolutely no weight.
That means there could be three incidents in the current PG&E spark and burn season that push it to the max wiping out the equivalent of the City of Escalon and PG&E will be allowed to keep doing businesses.
One can only imagine what the CPUC would allow if they weren’t looking after our best interests.
Depending upon what fires and gas line explosions you toss into the mix that PG&E has admitted to causing or state agencies contend PG&E likely triggered thanks to a well-established pattern of shortchanging equipment upgrades and failing to perform maintenance, PG&E’s actions or in actions have caused at least 130 deaths.
That’s 130 people dead so Wall Street hedge funds can squeeze every penny they can out of the pockets of PG&E customers.
It is clear PG&E can’t be trusted to do the right thing when it comes to refraining from setting in motion incidents that destroy property on a large scale and kills off people at such a clip that comparisons in the annals of death are less aligned with the numbers of mass murderer victims and instead approaching those attributed to genocide.
As for the CPUC they need to be viewed as what they are: Accomplices to the wanton death and destruction PG&E leaves in its wake to pursue the maximization of profits while enjoying the protection of a state guaranteed monopoly.
The demise of PG&E and then breaking the company down into smaller parts to be municipalized is the best solution.
As for the CPUC whose actions are at the very least ineffective and at the worst enabling needs to be held accountable for allowing a for-profit agency like PG&E that they are supposed to be regulating to treat Northern California as if they were General Sherman marching to the sea looting pocketbooks of ratepayers and burning everything in sight.