California Focus: What proper utility maintenance could have prevented

The State of California forces utility companies to spend an extra $800 million a year buying high price “alternative” fuels.  Instead of using the money to keep rates day and to prevent fires in our forests, government prefers to force us to live with fires as their priority.

“Now, with PG&E in bankruptcy court and Edison only one or two wildfires away from a similar fate, comes a remarkable report indicating more than anything before just how much the maintenance money paid by consumers could have accomplished if it had been property spent.

That document came from the felonious PG&E, answering questions from U.S. District Judge William Alsup on its equipment inspections before and during the multiple “public safety power shutoffs” (PSPS) the big company inflicted on millions of customers last fall.

As expected government prefers to blame the victim.  It creates the problem, claims it did not do its job of oversite, forces a firm to waste money needed for maintenance, then blames the company it destroyed.  We need to laugh at the jokers in Sacramento.  They are not serious people.

California Focus: What proper utility maintenance could have prevented

Thomas Elias, Hanford Sentinel,  2/11/20   

Back in the good old pre-2017 days when many Californians paid little or no attention to the approximately dollar-a-month maintenance charge on their electric bills, most customers figured their money was being spent to assure reliable power.

Actually, much of the maintenance money collected over six decades by big utilities like Pacific Gas & Electric Co., Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric was instead going to executive bonuses and other items never authorized by state regulators.

That happened, said the California Public Utilities Commission at the time, because it had too little manpower to fully inspect the books of those companies, let along examine their thousands of miles of overhead wires.

Things changed after the spate of massive wildfires that began in the fall of 2017, when state inspectors began fingering utility company lines as the ignition points of more and more blazes. Much of that would likely not have happened if maintenance money had been spent properly.

Now, with PG&E in bankruptcy court and Edison only one or two wildfires away from a similar fate, comes a remarkable report indicating more than anything before just how much the maintenance money paid by consumers could have accomplished if it had been property spent.

That document came from the felonious PG&E, answering questions from U.S. District Judge William Alsup on its equipment inspections before and during the multiple “public safety power shutoffs” (PSPS) the big company inflicted on millions of customers last fall.

Meanwhile, state legislators on Feb. 19 will consider for the first time investigating whether the PUC is capable of regulating the utilities’ safety efforts. “Government incompetence is part of the story,” said Democratic Assemblyman Adam Gray of Merced.

PG&E, America’s largest privately-owned utility, intentionally cut off power three times in October alone when it became concerned that dry and windy conditions might combine with its flawed equipment to start even more fires. Sure enough, there are strong indications that despite even those blackouts, a PG&E transmission tower may have started the massive Kincade Fire in the North Bay region. 

On that revealing PG&E report: Company inspectors found at least 218 maintenance-related problems that could have started fires if equipment involved had been live at the times of the risky conditions spurring shutoffs. There were cases of rusted bolts that could have snapped in high winds and many cases of likely vegetation damage, to name only two.

These items amount to an admission that even during the worst crisis in its history, PG&E could not maintain its equipment safely. They also raise major questions that Alsup – supervising probation of PG&E after its negligence conviction for damages during the San Bruno gas pipeline disaster of 2010 – should be asking.

One is whether proper use of maintenance money that was misspent in the past could have prevented any of the recent major fires. Another is the matter of who authorized misuse of that money and what penalties should be assessed against them. So far, no person has suffered any criminal penalty for any utility action, not even for PG&E’s role in the deaths of at least eight persons in San Bruno.

A third question is whether other California utilities similarly neglected their own maintenance responsibilities. For sure, Edison equipment likely played major roles in several big fires that have caused almost as much damage as those at least partly inflicted by PG&E gear. And what about SDG&E, which originated the PSPS practice in 2018 to prevent more corporate financial disasters like the hundreds of millions of dollars in damages it was assessed after the 2007 Witch Fire in the suburbs of San Diego?

All these questions must be resolved before the fate of PG&E can possibly be decided fairly in bankruptcy court, where proposed plans for the company’s future range from Wall Street or government bailouts to breaking off and selling portions of the company to simply making it and all the other investor owned utilities in the state into a single large state-owned firm.

If the outcome is fair to both customers and shareholders, the PG&E equipment report might emerge as a historic document reshaping and making safer future energy supplies in all of California. 

Tom Elias,  “The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It” is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net

About Stephen Frank

Stephen Frank is the publisher and editor of California Political News and Views. He speaks all over California and appears as a guest on several radio shows each week. He has also served as a guest host on radio talk shows. He is a fulltime political consultant.

Comments

  1. This is fact. The driveby media will not address it directly. We are victims of the environmentalists that have great influence within our government. Needs to be fixed with specific requirements for PG&E, the legislature, and the people who have power lines passing through their area and do not want the area properly maintained.

  2. One wonders, how many people would have to die before they lost their monopoly to operate in CA?

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