PG&E vegetation management found lacking


California utility Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), which has been blamed for some of the state’s most devastating recent wildfires, failed to cut back or remove thousands of trees which posed a threat to powerlines.

That’s according to a report from a court-appointed monitor, which submitted its report to a federal judge in July.

Monitor Mark Filip said his team had found more than 400 cases during recent months where PG&E contractors had failed to manage vegetation, with three incidents where trees were less than 30 centimetres of touching live power lines, according to news outlet KQED News. The state sets minimum clearances between trees and power lines.

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A total of approximately 2,600 trees, the report noted, were in danger of affecting power lines, and in three cases Filip noted that his team identified issues “that could have resulted in fatalities, injuries or serious damage if not timely remediated.”

Filip further found that the utility’s state-mandated wildfire safety programme had “substantial record-keeping issues,” including one entirely false report by a contractor confirming that safety work had been completed on a dangerous tree, when no such work had taken place.

“Not only is PG&E falling short of its … goals for the year, but the quality of the completed work is questionable,” the report said.

“We understand and recognise the serious concerns raised by the monitor and we are taking immediate action to address these issues, which are consistent with our own internal reviews,” PG&E said in a statement.

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The utility said its service area includes more than 120 million trees “with the potential to grow or fall into our overhead power lines.”

A PG&E power line was blamed for igniting a November 2018 fire that all-but-razed the Northern California town of Paradise, leading to death of 86 people. PG&E accepted responsibility for the tragedy.

That incident was not the only one, as PG&E equipment also has been linked to several other massive wildfires in recent years.

A similar version of this story recently appeared on our sister-site, Electric Light & Power.