SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 25, 2022 – The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), in ongoing efforts to hold utilities accountable for causing catastrophic wildfires, today issued a proposed Order imposing corrective actions and $155.4 million in fines to be paid by the shareholders of Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) for violations related to the 2020 Zogg Fire.
The proposed Administrative Enforcement Order is issued under the CPUC’s Enforcement Policy, which was adopted in November 2020 to better serve Californians through expeditious and efficient enforcement actions that can be taken by CPUC staff.
Under the Administrative Enforcement Order, PG&E has 30 days either to agree to pay the required penalty upon the CPUC’s adoption of a Final Order and complete corrective actions within 45 days from issuance of the Final Order, or to request a hearing.
On September 27, 2020, a gray pine tree near the town of Igo in Shasta County fell onto a PG&E electric distribution line. The tree’s contact with the line started the Zogg Fire, which burned 56,338 acres, caused four fatalities and one injury, and destroyed 204 structures and damaged 27 more. The Safety and Enforcement Division’s investigation of the 2020 Zogg Fire uncovered multiple violations of CPUC General Orders. The Administrative Enforcement Orders issued today address these violations through fines and corrective actions.
The Administrative Enforcement Orders issued today and related documents are available at www.cpuc.ca.gov/regulatory-services/enforcement-and-citations.
The CPUC has taken many actions to hold PG&E accountable for safely serving its customers, including:
- · Issued an Administrative Enforcement Order penalizing PG&E $12 million and ordering corrective actions for poor execution of 2020 Public Safety Power Shutoff events.
- · Issued a $5 million citation for PG&E’s failure to thoroughly inspect the Ignacio-Alto-Sausalito transmission lines from 2009 through 2018 and complete 22 high-priority repairs within the time allowed under CPUC regulations (General Order 95).
- · Issued a $2.5 million citation to PG&E for incomplete distribution pole inspections in 2019 that violated the requirements of CPUC regulations (General Order 165).
- · Issued a directive to PG&E with corrective actions the utility must take regarding an incident with a Cellon-treated pole that occurred in Danville, Calif. in 2020.
- · Established specific metrics to systemically evaluate PG&E’s operational safety performance and to further implement the Enhanced Oversight and Enforcement Process imposed upon PG&E by the CPUC as a condition of approving PG&E’s plan for exiting bankruptcy in May 2020.
- · Directed PG&E to take immediate action to reduce and mitigate customer impacts from the sudden loss of power due to PG&E’s execution of its Fast Trip program.
- · Placed PG&E into the first step of the Enhanced Oversight and Enforcement Process based on the company’s failure to sufficiently prioritize clearing vegetation on its highest-risk power lines as part of its wildfire mitigation work in 2020, and conducting fact-finding to determine whether to recommend advancing PG&E further within the Enhanced Oversight and Enforcement Process.
- · Directed PG&E to address its preparedness for Public Safety Power Shutoffs at a public briefing.
- · Ordered PG&E to enhance its Public Safety Power Shutoff process.
- · Ordered PG&E to create a mobile app for customers to report electric infrastructure safety concerns.
- · Established standards, scope, and expectations for the Independent Safety Monitor that will provide safety monitoring information to the CPUC beginning in February 2022, also a condition of approving PG&E’s plan for existing bankruptcy in May 2020.
- · Continual monitoring of PG&E’s safety enhancement actions ordered in a CPUC 2012-2017 natural gas system locate and mark investigation.
- · Continual monitoring of PG&E’s safety enhancement actions ordered in a settlement of the CPUC 2017-2018 wildfires investigation.
- · Ongoing monitoring and reporting of PG&E’s safety culture ordered in a 2015 investigation following PG&E’s 2010 natural gas transmission pipeline explosion in San Bruno.
The CPUC regulates services and utilities, protects consumers, safeguards the environment, and assures Californians’ access to safe and reliable utility infrastructure and services. For more information on the CPUC, please visit www.cpuc.ca.gov.
October 25, 2022 at 4:14 PM Update. PG&E responded to the news release:
PG&E remains committed to helping our customers and our hometowns impacted by the 2020 Zogg Fire in Shasta County as they recover and rebuild. We already have resolved civil claims with Shasta County and have reached settlements with most individual victims and their families in an effort to make it right.
We are reviewing the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) Proposed Administrative Enforcement Order related to the Zogg Fire. We share the CPUC’s commitment to improve safety, and we believe any potential financial penalties should be directed for the benefit of our customers, and to keeping our hometowns safe.
Today, PG&E is a different company with a new leadership team under Patti Poppe, who became CEO in January 2021. Since the Zogg fire we have taken significant actions to reduce wildfire risk as evidenced by the actions noted below:
Major initiatives include:
- Enhanced Powerline Safety Settings: We have deployed our Enhanced Powerline Safety Settings program across all 25,500 distribution line miles in high fire-risk areas, as well as select adjacent areas. Piloted in 2021, these new safety settings provide additional safeguards against fire ignitions by rapidly and automatically shutting off power when objects such as a tree or branch fall onto a powerline. These enabled safety settings have seen an 80% reduction in CPUC-reportable ignitions in high fire-risk areas compared to the prior three-year average. In 2022 we are continuing to see a significant reduction in CPUC-reportable ignitions.
- System Hardening: We are undergrounding 10,000 miles of powerlines in high fire-risk areas, representing the largest effort in the nation to underground powerlines as a wildfire risk reduction measure, including 175 miles in 2022 and ramping up to more than double the miles in 2023. Additionally, we continue installing stronger poles and covered lines, and have added temporary distribution microgrids and new remote grids.
- System Inspections and Vegetation Management: Our crews inspect and perform maintenance on distribution and transmission circuits across our service area, including high fire-risk areas, on a recurring cycle using various enhanced inspection methods. We go above and beyond regulatory vegetation management requirements by expanding minimum clearances, removing overhanging branches and assessing strike potential trees in high fire-risk areas. We have also expedited our operational response practices in high fire-risk areas requiring response to any fault or outage on our electric system in the high fire-risk areas within 60 minutes or less.
- Situational Awareness and Forecasting: We use state-of-the-art weather forecasting, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to help detect, prevent, and respond to the risk of wildfires. PG&E has installed more than 1,300 weather stations since 2018 and plans to install or optimize 100 more weather stations in 2022, which expands coverage to approximately one station every 20 line miles in high fire-risk areas. We also have installed 502 high-definition wildfire cameras since 2018 and plan to add 98 more by the end of this year, to provide approximately 90% viewshed coverage in the high fire-risk areas.
- Public Safety Power Shutoffs: We utilize Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) as a last resort during extreme wind-driven weather conditions to mitigate fire risk, while also minimizing the impact on customers, including providing portable batteries covering all eligible and interested customers in our Medical Baseline Program who live in High Fire-Threat Districts, or who have been impacted by two or more recent PSPS outages, and working closely with officials to coordinate, share information and manage PSPS outages and wildfire safety efforts. PSPS events are scoped using advanced risk models and more than 1,000 sectionalizing devices to surgically target power shutoffs.