PG&E Faces Criminal Charges—Again—Over Another California Wildfire


Pacific Gas and Electric Company was hit with a slew of criminal charges Tuesday for sparking the 2019 Kincade Fire, making it the fourth time California’s largest utility has faced criminal charges related to fires in the state.

Sonoma County District Attorney charged PG&E with five felonies and 28 misdemeanors after state investigators determined a broken jumper cable on a PG&E transmission tower caused the Kincade Fire.

PG&E is charged with unlawfully causing a fire with great bodily injury, unlawfully causing a fire to inhabited structures, recklessly causing a fire to forest land and various air pollution crimes.

While no one died from the Kincade Fire, the blaze was California’s largest in 2019, burning 78,000 acres of land and 174 homes.

In a statement, PG&E said it will accept “that a PG&E transmission line caused the fire,” but added the company does “not believe there was any crime here.”

“I went with others from my team, along with CalFire, to the location in the Geysers where we believe the fire began as soon as it was safe to do so. Since that time, we have been working with CalFire and independent experts to determine the cause of and responsibility for the Kincade fire. I believe this criminal complaint reflects our findings,” Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch said in a statement.

California officials have long accused PG&E of putting profits over safety by neglecting upgrades and maintenance of its aging equipment. The company pleaded guilty last year to involuntary manslaughter charges for its role in sparking the 2018 Camp Fire that killed 84 people. In 2016, the PG&E was convicted of multiple safety violations stemming from a 2010 pipeline explosion that killed eight people in San Bruno, California. And in 1997, a Nevada jury found PG&E guilty of 739 counts of criminal negligence for failing to trim trees near its power lines.

[Read More…]