Regulators propose $12 million fine against PG&E over power shutoffs


File photo by Matthew Keys for Solano NewsNet

California regulators have proposed a $12 million fine against the Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) over its handling of planned safety power shutoff (PSPS) events in 2020.

The fine proposed by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) does not challenge PG&E’s decision to implement PSPS events that year, some of which impacted residents and businesses in rural Solano County, but instead charged PG&E with failing to take certain pre-shutoff and post-shutoff measures.

The proposed order issued this week said PG&E failed to report if
there were any complaints filed by customers directly to the utility
that were related to PSPS events that occurred between September and
December 2020. It also said PG&E didn’t provide regulators with
information about the nature of any complaints it did receive.

Instead, PG&E merely provided information about complaints that were filed directly to the CPUC, the agency said, which wasn’t enough to meet its reporting requirements.

PG&E also failed to notify around 5,700 customers that their area was covered by a PSPS event before the
utility shut off power, the CPUC said. In December of that year, PG&E was accused of failing to provide advance notification to public safety agencies and others who should have received prior warningthat a PSPS event was forthcoming, the order says.

PG&E began utilizing PSPS events as a way of preventing catastrophic wildfires in areas designated as high fire danger regions. The utility’s aging equipment has been linked to several destructive and deadly
wildfires in the past, including the 2018 Camp Fire that destroyed the town of Paradise and killed 85 people. Earlier this year, PG&E entered a guilty plea related to 85 counts of manslaughter linked to the Camp Fire.

The proposed fine issued against PG&E this week would be paid by shareholders, CPUC officials said. In addition to the $12 million fine against PG&E, the CPUC is also proposing similar financial measures against Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric, the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper reported on Wednesday.

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