PG&E to spend $125M for igniting massive California fire

Nov 3, 2021, 11:42 PM | Updated: Nov 4, 2021, 11:50 am
FILE - Vines surround a burning building as the Kincade Fire burns through the Jimtown community of...

FILE - Vines surround a burning building as the Kincade Fire burns through the Jimtown community of unincorporated Sonoma County, Calif., on Oct. 24, 2019. Pacific Gas & Electric has reached a settlement agreement, Nov. 3, 2021, with state regulators over the 2019 Kincade fire, which was ignited by the utility's electrical transmission equipment in a remote area of Sonoma County. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

(AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

SONOMA, Calif. (AP) — Pacific Gas & Electric has reached a $125 million settlement agreement with California regulators over the destructive Kincade fire, which was ignited in 2019 by the utility’s equipment in a remote area of Sonoma County.

PG&E shareholders would pay a $40 million fine to the state general fund and spend another $85 million in the removal of abandoned transmission equipment throughout the utility’s territory as part of the agreement expected to be approved by the California Public Utilities Commission at its Dec. 2 meeting, the Press Democrat reported Wednesday.

The agreement was reached after the commission’s Safety and Enforcement Division found fault with the maintenance and condition of a high-voltage PG&E transmission tower that remained energized for years even though it had served a Calpine power plant that no longer was active.

Though the tower was disconnected from the facility in 2006, the 230,000-volt transmission equipment not only remained energized but was also left with jumper cables suspended and unsecured. One of them broke and arced against the tower during extreme winds on the night of Oct. 23, 2019, igniting vegetation on the ground, the report said.

The Kincade fire would go on to torch nearly 122 square miles (316 square kilometers), destroying 174 homes and about 200 other structures, and injuring four people. An estimated 190,000 residents, almost two-fifths of Sonoma County’s population, were ordered to evacuate.

“PG&E left abandoned equipment energized for thirteen years even though that equipment provided no benefit or convenience to the public,” the enforcement division report said.

The agency’s investigation was separate from one conducted by Cal Fire, which last year traced the wildfire, the largest in Sonoma County history, to the high-voltage electrical transmission tower in the Mayacamas Mountains.

It is also independent of a criminal case still pending in Sonoma County Superior Court, where PG&E is charged with five felonies and 28 misdemeanor counts alleging the utility recklessly caused the fire.

A PG&E spokeswoman said Wednesday that the utility disputes several features of the utility commission’s investigation. In particular, the company believed the Calpine unit served by the tower to be on “cold standby,” meaning it could be put back into use, spokeswoman Lynsey Paulo said.

Calpine also continued to pay monthly service charges and had inspected the equipment as part of its wildfire prevention efforts, Paulo added.

The company agreed to settle with the commission, despite disagreeing with alleged violations, in hopes it “will assist in allowing all parties to move forward with the fire, and permit us to focus on compensating victims and making our energy system safer,” the utility said in a statement.

PG&E already has settled with Sonoma County and the cities of Windsor, Healdsburg, Santa Rosa and Cloverdale, agreeing last May to pay $31 million in damages related to the public safety response to the wildfire.

The company filed for bankruptcy in 2019 and pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter related to the 2018 Camp Fire, which wiped out most of the town of Paradise and was sparked by its equipment. It also faces numerous criminal charges for fires caused by its fraying equipment, including four charges of manslaughter filed in September by Shasta County prosecutors.

Sonoma County Supervisor James Gore, whose district sustained most of the damage from the Kincade fire, said Wednesday that he remains troubled by PG&E’s lack of transparency and accountability.

“You know, it’s interesting that a settlement is really about spending the money that you should have spent before on something,” Gore said. “Let’s call it what it is.”

A historic drought and recent heat waves tied to climate change have made wildfires harder to fight in the American West. Scientists say climate change has made the region much warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Pakistan’s army chief meets with US defense secretary

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s powerful military chief met Wednesday in Washington with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and other security and government officials, the military said. Qamar Javed Bajwa’s trip to the United States comes weeks before he’s expected to retire after an extended six-year tenure. Although Pakistan has been ruled by the elected civilian […]
1 day ago
A woman holds a child at a clinic in Dollow, Somalia, on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022.  Somalia is in ...
Associated Press

‘So many children dying’: Somalia drought brings famine near

DOLLOW, Somalia (AP) — A man in a donkey cart comes wheeling through the dust, carrying two small, silent boys. The sky is overcast. It could rain. It won’t. It hasn’t for a very long time. Mohamed Ahmed Diriye is 60 years old, and he’s completing the grimmest journey of his life. He set off […]
1 day ago
Britain's Prime Minister Liz Truss, foreground and Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng look ...
Associated Press

UK’s Truss tries to shake off dismal start with party speech

BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) — British Prime Minister Liz Truss will say Wednesday that all change brings disruption as she tries to convince her Conservative Party — and the country — that the turmoil unleashed by her tax-cutting economic agenda will bring more prosperity in the end. Truss is due to close a tumultuous Conservative conference […]
1 day ago
FILE - European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, right, shakes hands with Albanian Prime ...
Associated Press

As Europe’s leaders meet, some fear for EU membership hopes

BRUSSELS (AP) — Leaders from more than 40 countries meeting in the Czech capital Thursday are set to launch a “European Political Community” aimed at boosting security and prosperity across the continent. But critics claim the new forum is an attempt to put the brakes on European Union enlargement. The Prague meeting is the brainchild […]
1 day ago
FILE - In this image from video, Tigray's regional president Debretsion Gebremichael speaks during ...
Associated Press

Ethiopia, Tigray head invited to peace talks in South Africa

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The leader of Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region and the federal government have been invited to peace talks in South Africa this weekend as part of a pan-African effort to end one of the world’s most overlooked wars, according to a letter seen Wednesday by The Associated Press. If Debretsion Gebremichael attends […]
1 day ago
FILE - A Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020 file photo of a Nobel medal displayed during a ceremony in New York....
Associated Press

Nobel panel to announce winner of chemistry prize

STOCKHOLM (AP) — The winner, or winners, of the Nobel Prize in chemistry will be announced Wednesday at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm. Last year the prize was awarded to scientists Benjamin List and David W.C. MacMillan for finding an ingenious and environmentally cleaner way to build molecules that the Nobel panel […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
PG&E to spend $125M for igniting massive California fire