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As California burned, state politicos headed to Hawaii with utility executives

As California burned, state politicos headed to Hawaii with utility executives

Pacific Gas and Electric CEO is resigning & the company plans on filing for bankruptcy.

Legal insurrection readers will recall the historic wildfires of 2018, which included the destruction of Paradise and subsequent lawsuits filed against Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) by survivors.

Now reports have  revealed that while wildfires raged, state lawmakers headed to Hawaii with utility company executives.

During the junket, representatives from utility companies discussed with the bipartisan group of lawmakers just how much responsibility they should bear for wildfires – even as Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) could be on the hook for several billions of dollars in damages for fires it caused over the past few years.

The utility companies are pushing for a new state law that would raise electricity prices to offset costs incurred from wildfires, according to The New York Times.

The annual event, hosted by the nonprofit Independent Voter Project, was held in Maui in November. PG&E executives did not attend the conference because of the wildfires, but representatives from San Diego Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison did, KABC-TV reported.

Here is a list of the California politicians who headed to Maui:

The cost of the event was $8000 per person. Of those listed above in attendance, only Frank Bigelow and Bill Brough are Republicans.

In related news, the CEO of PG&E has resigned as the company faces potential bankruptcy and possible criminal charges after last year’s deadly Camp Fire, the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California’s history.

Geisha Williams had been chief executive of Pacific Gas and Electric Co., or PG&E, since March 2017, when she became the first Latina chief executive of a Fortune 500 company. John Simon, the utility’s executive vice president and general counsel, will serve as interim chief executive while PG&E searches for a permanent leader, the company said.

PG&E is in crisis after the Camp Fire killed at least 85 people in Northern California last year. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra told a federal judge last month that the company could be prosecuted for murder.

I would argue that murder charges and lawsuits should also be directed at entities that thwarted sensible forest management. For example, one Obama appointee ignored the warnings of a number of different business organizations that green justice policies would lead to such devastating fires:

In 2015, Washington D.C. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, an Obama appointee, rejected claims from a coalition of timber, livestock, and off-highway vehicle organizations that the Obama sustainability provisions in the 2012 Planning Rule would cause an economically harmful reduction in timber harvest and land use and an increase in forest fires. “Defendants Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center and Oregon Wild, represented by the Western Environmental Law Center, as well as The Wilderness Society and Defenders of Wildlife, represented by Earthjustice, argued that existing federal law provided ample authority for the Forest Service to promulgate the Planning Rule provisions, which place emphasis on ecologically sustainable forest management,” Earthjustice reported.

In terms of bankruptcy, the utility company intends to file for Chapter 11 at the end of January.

Pacific Gas and Electric said it plans to file petitions to reorganize under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code on or about January 29, 2019.

The company was acting under a new state law requiring it to tell employees at least 15 days before a change of control in the company – including a bankruptcy filing.

The move will allow PG&E. to hold off creditors and continue operating while it tries to put its finances in order. The company said it does not expect the filing to affect the delivery of electricity or natural gas to its 16 million customers in Northern and central California.

Given the antics of our politicians, one could argue California has become the new Rome, minus the togas and the gladiators.


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PG&E tried, really they did. They hired a non-Hispanic looking Hispanic woman with a Welsh name as President knowing full well that they could roll her under the bus as the need arose. I almost feel sorry for PG&E, operating as they are in the nutter state and hamstrung by politicians.

PG&E is practically a state run utility already. At some point watch for CA to “nationalize” it to “save” it as California need some power generation capacity and outaide companies don’t have enough power lines into the state to make up the difference. I doubt anyone in the power generation business is dumb enough to buy PG&E. So CA will run it at some point, then run everything further into the ground and the next wildfire that happens due to old faulty equipment CA will just write it off as a bad expense.

    One of Governor Brown’s last acts was to sign a bill allowing electric utility companies to pass liability settlements to the taxpayer so we are now on the hook. Looks like Brown saw this coming. All politicians are in the bag for the unions and utility companies here. Gavin Newsom is up to his eyeballs with utility money.

      Correction, PG&E will be allowed to pass liability settlements through to its customers, not taxpayers. But the liabilities must be so enormous as to be catastrophic to customers. So they are filing for bankruptcy.

    MattMusson in reply to pwaldoch. | January 15, 2019 at 10:19 am

    The Problem here is that PG&E will NOT be able to borrow money. That means no new generation plants. No new windmills. No new Solar arrays. Nada. Change the state motto from the Golden State.

    California – The Brown Out State

It’s not as bad as it sounds. From Hawaii, you could still see the smoke from the fires so they were all still in touch with the situation.

PG&E did not attend the Hawaii conference with state lawmakers; why is this conference tied to PG&E’s bankruptcy?

PG&E runs high-voltage lines through mountainous, forested regions plagued with drought, high winds and poor forestry management. Only buried lines could reduce the risk in such areas but buried lines would be prohibitively expensive. In other words, those areas should not have been developed.

PG&E power lines may have loosened or fallen producing sparks resulting in fire. Well, duh. So let’s blame PG&E instead of forestry management combined with poor property development choices.

As expected, the state is going blame the deep pockets of PG&E, which will force PG&E to take the money out of the residents pockets.

And the state says: “Look people, the evil PG&E is going to pay for the fires, not you. Please vote for me again.”

    The cost of buried lines might be expensive but not “”prohibitively expensive. The annual cost of these fires is in the tens of billions. THAT is prohibitively expensive. Here in Pasadena, all of our power lines and fiber optics cables are buried so it isn’t “prohibitive”. Bad politics entangled with business interests with politics and fund raising more important than the business interests. It’s the corruption that is prohibitively expensive.

      stablesort in reply to Pasadena Phil. | January 15, 2019 at 9:41 am

      The cost of buried transmission lines in mountainous areas is prohibitive:

      “An underground 230 kV line costs 10 to 15 times the cost of an overhead line due to time, materials, processes, the need to include transition substations and the use of specialized labor. The proposed overhead double circuit 230 kV line would cost $1 million per mile. Part of the added cost to bury lines may include routing and boring to avoid other underground installations, such as water, natural gas and sewer lines. An overhead line often can be routed around or over these difficult areas.

      Occasional Thinker in reply to Pasadena Phil. | January 15, 2019 at 10:22 am

      Burying the lines would require heavy equipment be brought in which would damage the land and access for that equipment would have to be maintained in order to do repair work. I have read that one of the problems contributing to the fires is a reduction in the width of right of ways the electric companies are allowed, which places the wires closer to trees, I would question if they would be allowed to bury the cables.

    Blaming PG&E for the fires is just a red herring. The people responsible for the extent of the fires are the State of California. Its liberal wienie forestry practices, in conjunction with its building codes for fire prone areas, were directly responsible for the severity of the fires. But, someone has to be responsible and it sure is going to be State employees or politicians.

    There have been serious fires for the last decade, in California. They have been ignited by various sources, both man-made and natural. There is no way to stop them from occurring. But, steps can be taken to minimize their spread. Clearing undergrowth in forested areas near residential areas. Cutting firebreaks around residential areas. Imposing building codes which require fireproof and fire retardant materials and design elements in fire prone areas. The state will actively work against plastic pollution by banning plastic straws and spend billions on a fast train which no one will ever use. But, they ignore a real and pressing danger to a large number of their residents. Gotta love the priorities in the magic kingdom.

Anyone else desires me see the picture of Bigelow and think, well, there is still at least one elected Republican left in California?

JusticeDelivered | January 15, 2019 at 11:07 am

Thee root problem is the state not following well known forestry management practices. While I am generally not a fan of big corporations, I think that the power company has lost a bunch of infrastructure as a result of state negligence.

So in the end, state residents are going to pay for their leaders negligence. Will residents be smart enough to make those leaders pay by throwing them out of office?

The main problem is the “environmentalists that do not allow for the cutting of enough room for the power lines, and the states mandates that drive the cost of ANY business to the brink of disaster, and in the final analysis, Let PG&E go bankrupt. If crimes have been commited, let it’s officers be prosecuted and jailed. It’s stockholders first, then it’s bondholders will be left holding the bag. When that is insufficient, its assets can be liquidated, and bought by another provider who will have seen a good example of poor management, and how not to comport themselves

People here literally have no idea what they’re talking about regarding the Camp Fire.

The fire started in the Pulgas/Jarbo Gap area of the Feather River Canyon. There’s no possible way to run underground powerlines in the canyon between Quincy and Lake Oroville. It’s impossibly steep and rugged terrain interspersed with granite batholiths.

The canyon area opposite where the fire started from Four Trees and up to Beldon was logged in 2004 using skycrane heliocopters. I know, i watched them do it because i recreate in the OHV area between Four Trees and Granite Basin. Next. Portions of the forest directly in the path of the fire burning from the origin of the fire toward Paradise is owned by Georgia/Louisiana lumber companies. I know because I’ve cut miles of bootleg single track enduro motorcycle trails through their property beginning near Flea Mountain/Rag Dump to Sawmill Peak and into an area known as the High Lakes. Both companies patch cut their forests. They leave some slash but also burn some of it after the rains come. Some of that forest is federal, but not all of it. USFS is culpable, less so LP/GP because the feds dictate the rules.

The canyon is a weather convergence zone. That means erratic weather. I”ve watched thunder cells spawning clusters of nascent funnel cloud “nipples” just below Jarbo Gap.

Violent winds are generated in the canyon due to convection currents between super heated valley air and comparatively cooler moist air of the high sierra. Wind sheer along ridges in the area will literally snap the tops off of mature, perfectly healthy sugar pines, doug fir and red cedar for miles along those ridges. I know because i’ve chainsawed and removed those broken tree tops from asphalted rural surface roads between Challenge and Portola and Cascade.

The wind was whipping and swirling down the canyon the day of the Camp Fire. No one is really to blame for what happened that day.

Also. Paradise and Concow are old gold rush mining areas. These are not new communities. Sure, new developments in lower Paradise account for many of the total homes burned, but the forest in that area was removed – and other parts of that area are California scrub chaparel.

Suing PGE is a lawyer grift. I greatly dislike PGE but for reasons greatly divorced from wildfire creation. The state and fed need to be held accountable. Sue them.

typed this on my phone – I’ve got fat fingers.

Still is awfully suspect to me that the wildfire blame goes to PG&E. Just seems too weird. What, do we have a epidemic of failing power lines that are lined all up and down the state? If we do, then all californians need to sue PG&E for another potential disaster.

I have always believed that these fires were intentionally set. We had a fire bug up here in my area setting numerous fires out in fields. There’s at least 10 burn sites that I see on my way home from work. Fire investigators still looking into them.