SAN FRANCISCO — Pacific Gas and Electric admits it needs to do more to prevent another devastating wildfire, but it disagrees with a report that claims the California utility knew that it’s aging infrastructure was susceptible to burning.
Responding to a scathing Wall Street Journal report, PG&E denied the article’s conclusions that the utility knew for years parts of its transmission system posed a wildfire risk but did not fix them.
Citing reports obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the Journal said that even before the deadly Paradise, California, fire, “the company knew that 49 of the steel towers that carry the electrical line that failed needed to be replaced entirely.”
In one of the documents obtained by the Journal, a PG&E presentation from 2017 showed that the oldest towers were more than 100-years-old with a life expectancy of only 65 years.
“Although we don’t agree with or support the Journal’s conclusions, we have acknowledged that the devastation of the 2017 and 2018 wildfires made clear that we must do more to combat the threat of wildfires and extreme weather while hardening our systems,” PG&E said in a statement.
In June, PG&E agreed to pay $1 billion in damages to local governments for blazes linked to its power lines, poles and other equipment. Most of the funds are related to last year’s Camp Fire in Northern California that killed 85 people and destroyed thousands of homes. The hardest-hit town of Paradise, which was left in charred ruins, will get $270 million to resolve wildfire claims.
Earlier, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said electrical lines owned and operated by PG&E started the fire early November 8.