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California Energy Markets / This Week
[CEM 1531 / March 22, 2019]
Lawyers Say PG&E Knew of Line Risks, Allege ‘Run to Failure’ Infrastructure Policy
Lawyers representing victims of the Northern California wildfires contend that internal company documents show Pacific Gas & Electric was previously aware of issues with the Caribou-Palermo line, a 56-mile transmission line suspected of igniting the Camp Fire in Butte County in November. The documents include a 2014 email in which a PG&E employee refers to the high likelihood of failure of structures along the line. The utility, however, is pushing back on the claims. A document from 2012 shows that state regulators said “it is reasonable to have a lower frequency” of inspections of lines in Northern California.
Officials Say SCE Equipment Sparked Both Fires That Merged Into Thomas
Southern California Edison is backing away from its earlier admission of culpability in one of two fires that merged to form the Thomas Fire in December 2017. Investigators say the utility’s equipment was responsible for both ignition points, but SCE insists it must analyze equipment and evidence still in the hands of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and perform its own internal review.
Communities Hammer Wildfire Mitigation Plans
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Local governments from counties and cities affected by Northern California wildfires strongly criticized utilities’ wildfire prevention and response strategies in a series of comments to the California Public Utilities Commission on March 13. The comments, submitted in response to the utilities’ wildfire mitigation plans, listed proposed modifications stemming from the governments’ own experiences dealing with wildfires. .
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