SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A federal judge in San Francisco on Wednesday ordered PG&E Co. to respond “paragraph by paragraph” to a Wall Street Journal article that alleges the utility knew for years that parts of its aging transmission lines could fail and spark fires, but failed to fix them.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup is overseeing PG&E’s probation in a criminal pipeline safety case and as part of that supervision has issued orders related to fire risk from PG&E’s electricity system.
Alsup directed PG&E to file “a fresh, forthright statement owning up to the true extent of the Wall Street Journal report” by July 31. The response can be up to 40 pages long. The news article was published Wednesday.
PG&E spokesman James Noonan said, “We are aware of the court’s order and are currently reviewing it.”
Noonan added, “PG&E’s most important responsibility is the safety of our customers and the communities we serve.”
Alsup also ordered PG&E to state in a separate 10-page response why it distributed almost $5 billion in dividends to shareholders before seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January, at a time when it allegedly knew of its backlog of hazardous trees near wires.
The utility must also say in the second filing how much money it has contributed to political campaigns since 2017 and “why those campaign contributions were more important” than repairing aging lines and removing hazardous trees.