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CPUC Slaps PG&E With Butte Fire Citations

CPUC Slaps PG&E With Butte Fire Citations

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued two citations totaling $8.3 million to Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) yesterday for several violations related to the Butte Fire.  The CPUC’s investigation found that a gray pine tree contacted a PG&E 12-kilovolt (kV) overhead electric conductor and caused an ignition that started the fire.  The CPUC issued an $8 million Citation for failing to maintain its 12 kV overhead conductors safely and properly.  This violation began in January 2015, when PG&E and/or its contractors first failed to identify that the planned removal of two nearby trees would allow the subject gray pine tree to become hazardous and make contact with the PG&E 12 kV overhead conductor.  The second Citation was issued for a total of $300,000 for two violations.  PG&E was cited $250,000 for failure to timely report to the CPUC that PG&E’s facilities may have been linked to the ignition of the Butte Fire. The CPUC investigation found that PG&E became aware of this possible link no later than September 11, 2015, but did not notify the CPUC until September 16, 2015, five days later.  The CPUC requires such notification within two hours of discovery during normal working hours, or within four hours outside of normal working hours.  PG&E also was cited $50,000 for failing to maintain the minimum required clearance between the 12 kV conductor and the grey pine tree.  The CPUC requires that a minimum clearance of at least 18 inches be maintained at all times.  PG&E has 30 calendar days, until May 25, to pay or contest the Citations.   On September 9, 2015, the Butte Fire ignited near Butte Mountain Road in Amador County burning 70,868 acres, destroyed 921 structures (549 homes, 368 outbuildings, and 4 commercial properties), damaged 44 structures, and resulted in two civilian fatalities and one injury. The Citations are available at http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/General.aspx?id=1965.

 

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