California’s #Powerpocalypse Punishing Us For Their Ineptness
RECALL GAVIN NEWSOME FOR HIS PART IN ALLOUR SUFFERINGS
The basics: Our electric grid is owned by a profit-maximizing business called Pacific Gas and Electric.
PG&E is both the country’s largest electric utility, AND a convicted felon.
About the Fatal Gas Explosion and Resulting Charges
A San Francisco jury has found Pacific Gas & Electric guilty of five felony counts of violating pipeline safety standards and one count of obstruction an investigation for its role in the fatal San Bruno gas explosion that killed eight and injured 58 others.
The fatal explosion occurred on September 9, 2010 with a loud blast that shook the small city of San Bruno. In addition to the tragic loss of life and injuries, the explosion destroyed 38 homes and resulted in millions of dollars in damage.
Despite the multiple felony conviction, the utility only faces about $3 million in federal fines, far less than the $1.6 billion fined against PG&E by the California Public Utilities Commission in 2015. The fine is even dwarfed by the $38 million dollar fine PG&E received over the 2008 Rancho Cordova gas explosion.
In addition to the fines, PG&E has also paid roughly $500 million to settle a number of personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits filed after the blast.
How a Gas Explosion Occurs
Gas explosions result from a volatile mixture of flammable gases with common elements like oxygen and carbon dioxide. Once the gas-to-air ratio reaches a critical point between the Low and High Explosion Limits, any flame, spark, or other sufficient heat source can result in a blast.
Upon ignition, the gas begins to expand rapidly, building pressure until a portion of whatever is containing the pressure and gas gives. The result of the following sudden release of pressure is a violent explosion.
Common causes of gas explosions include:
- Faulty piping
- Poorly maintained piping
- Negligent maintenance
- Damages meters and regulators
- Faulty control valves
- Excavation near a pipeline resulting in damage
PG&E is presently in bankruptcy because its neglected equipment sparked massive wildfires over the past two years.
PG&E doesn’t want to rack up more wildfire liability..but it also hasn’t completed two thirds of the inspections and maintenance it told a judge it needs to make the system safer.
PG&E is less than one-third done with its 2019 tree-trimming work
As the most dangerous part of California’s wildfire season continues, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. says it has finished only about 31% of the aggressive tree-trimming work it planned this year to prevent vegetation from falling on power lines and starting more deadly infernos.
PG&E told a federal judge Tuesday that as of Sept. 21, the company had completed 760 miles out of the 2,455 miles of power lines where it intends to take extra steps to cut back vegetation. The company said its ability to meet the tree-trimming target by the end of the year depends on whether it can “significantly increase the number of qualified personnel engaged” in the effort.
PG&E’s filing came two weeks after its latest appearance before U.S. District Judge William Alsup, who is overseeing the company’s probation arising from the 2010 San Bruno gas pipeline explosion.
So now that it’s dry and windy, they are TURNING OFF THE POWER for up to 2.5 MILLION people, for up to SIX DAYS.
This was largely preventable (if PG&E had been trimming trees, replacing transformers, and maintaining decrepit towers
Bad things blackouts do: –
- Spoil food –
- Cut off water –
- Shut down highway tunnels –
- Close businesses –
- Cost wages –
- Trap people who need elevators/motorized chairs –
- Kill people –
- Start fires (because without power, people light candles, fire up gas generators, cook on grilles, etc.)
PG&E doesn’t have to pay the tab for any of it Just for starting wildfires
But the blackouts are ultimately PG&E’s call. Not the state. Not the utility commission*. PG&E. (*The PUC does approve PG&E’s plan for managing wildfire risk in general)
Why the flurry of surprised posts? Even though PG&E’s planned to do something like this for close to a year, they have been absolute crap at actually managing it…. The official source of information on which areas will be blacked out is PG&E’s website. It’s been down since yesterday . . .
There are going to be millions of people without electricity for days. With a couple exceptions, PG&E’s set up only one emergency resource center PER COUNTY. . . They only started working on how to keep the region’s busiest highway tunnels open . . . yesterday.
The emergency resource centers they *have* set up are, uhm . . . spartan. Also, they close at night.
“But I thought utility companies are super *regulated*?” Yes! And they also have $ to finance the electeds who pick their regulators, and hire their former staff to lobby their old bosses!
Governor Newsom, most state lawmakers took money from convicted felon PG&E
PG&E donated millions to California politicians after it was convicted of 6 federal felonies connected to the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion that killed 8 people.
A convicted federal felon donated more than four million dollars to influence California politics and the money was accepted by California Gov. Gavin Newsom the vast majority of members of the state legislature, and both major political parties.
The political donor’s crimes were connected to the deaths of eight people. Politicians knew that but took the money anyway.
The convict in this story isn’t a person. It’s the Pacific Gas and Electric Company a publicly-traded corporation with a monopoly over power service to four out of every 10 people living in California.
Newsom, a Democrat, received more than $200,000 from the federal offender. The Republican and Democratic parties of California each took more than $500,000.
To be clear, it’s not illegal for a convicted felon — whether person or corporation — to donate campaign money. And it’s not illegal for the politician to accept it.
But is it ethical?
Newsom is currently attempting to broker a legislative package to help utilities companies like PG&E remain financially solvent after starting wildfires. He’s also embraced reforms of legal liability standards for the industry, a policy goal PG&E has spent millions lobbying to achieve in the last two years.
The corporation was convicted of six federal felonies in 2016, which means that every donation accepted by California politicians from PG&E during the 2018 election cycle amounts to taking money from a convicted criminal.
The tabulation of PG&E’s political spending as a criminal came as part of a 7-month investigation into California’s wildfire crisis in the aftermath of the Camp Fire, the results of which will be released in the upcoming original documentary series FIRE – POWER – MONEY: California’s burning crisis and how it’s going to cost us all.
PG&E’s felony convictions were related to the deadly 2010 San Bruno gas explosion, which killed eight people. A jury found PG&E guilty of five counts of willfully breaking federal gas pipeline safety laws and one count of obstructing the federal investigation into the disaster.
PG&E will be serving its probation up to the year 2022 for its past crimes.
“Words are not enough,” PG&E wrote in a statement after the sentencing. “We expect to be judged by our actions.”
Under court order, the company also ran television ads to apologize for the disaster, saying, “We can never forget what happened in San Bruno. That’s why we’re working every day to make PG&E the safest energy company in the nation.”
Since being sentenced in January 2017, state investigators say PG&E sparked wildfires that killed 107 people — including the deadly 2018 Camp Fire, which killed 85 people when it destroyed the entire town of Paradise.
PG&E said it “accepts” the state’s conclusion that failure of a PG&E transmission line started the fire.
Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey told ABC10 that his office is exploring the possibility of charging PG&E with 85 counts of manslaughter if he can prove criminal negligence by the company.
In all, ABC10’s compilation of state records shows that as a felon, PG&E donated more than $800,000 directly to candidate campaigns, $372,000 to influence the outcome of votes on ballot questions, and another $3.2 million to political spending groups — much of which ultimately flowed to candidates.
GOV. NEWSOM WON’T SAY WHETHER IT’S RIGHT TO TAKE A FELON’S MONEY
Newsom and his allies took $208,400 toward his 2018 run for governor after PG&E was convicted. That includes the maximum contribution of $58,400 directly to his campaign and another $150,000 to a political spending group called “Citizens Supporting Gavin Newsom for Governor 2018.”
“It’s a strange question,” Newsom told ABC10 when asked why it’s OK for him to take money from a convicted felon. “I don’t know what more I can say.”
Map light breaks out PG&E investment in state-level politicians here: http://classic.maplight.org/california/organization/9447794-pge… Open secrets has federal data, and the employment history of the lobbyists working for them here: https://opensecrets.org/orgs/summary.php?id=D000000290&cycle=2018…