SACRAMENTO (KPIX) — A Bay Area lawmaker is accusing PG&E of covering up after a new report blames the utility company for sparking several fires in Northern California.
State Senator Jerry Hill says PG&E is lobbying to change state laws around fire liability.
The accusation comes as a report by Cal Fire shows the utility company’s power lines caused massive fires in Nevada and Butte counties last year.
Those fires are not the same fires as those connected to the wine country wildfires that destroyed parts of Santa Rosa.
“They’re trying to create this story around their behavior, their actions, which is kind of a false reality, and that’s the part that’s so disturbing,” says Hill.
The senator says he worries about PG&E’s lobbying efforts in Sacramento to change state laws that currently require utilities to compensate people if their property is damaged by utility equipment.
“They don’t want their shareholders to pay the money,” says Hill. “They want the ratepayers and the state of California to pick up the cost. They will I believe do anything, say anything, and spend any amount of money to do that.”
This comes as Cal Fire just released preliminary investigation reports about the cause of 2 fires in Butte County and two in Nevada County that burned a combined 9-thousand acres last October.
It shows all four fires were caused by trees or branches that fell into power lines, and in 3 of the 4 cases, PG&E didn’t cut back the trees to leave enough clearance for the lines.
“They’re trying to tell everyone in Sacramento that oh this is all the result of the new normal. Climate change is making this happen,” says Hill. “It has nothing to do with the fact that they’ve done a poor job in maintaining their lines and the proper clearance around those lines.”
Cal Fire has still not released any reports outlining the cause of the deadly wildfires in October that ravaged the wine country.
But, if PG&E is successful in changing liability laws – the state could end up picking up the tab for the estimated $10 billion or more in damage.
“We all need their wires. We need their pipes in the ground and if something happens, and it’s not PG&Es fault, then we should all share in the responsibility and I’m happy to do that, but not if they’re at fault,” says Hill.
PG&E responded to Cal Fire’s report in a statement saying, “We look forward to the opportunity to carefully review the Cal Fire reports to understand the agency’s perspectives.”
“Based on the information we have so far, we believe our overall programs met our state’s high standards.”
The Cal Fire report on the Butte and Nevada county fires was sent to the District Attorneys in each county, and to the California Public Utilities Commission.