September 25 (WNN) — Prosecutors have filed criminal charges, including murder, against Pacific Gas and Electric tied to last year’s California wildfires.
Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridget on Friday announced murder charges among 11 felonies and 20 misdemeanors tied to the 56,000-acre Zog Fire that killed four people and destroyed 204 buildings near Redding, Calif., in 2020. .
Bridget told reporters that investigations showed “significant defects” were visible in the gray pine hit by the Zog Fire, according to a California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection discovery earlier this year and in 2018. was marked for deletion.
“As a utility, PG&E has both statutory and regulatory duties to reduce the risk of fire by removing dangerous trees from its power lines,” Bridget said. “In this case, they failed to perform their legal duties. Their failure was negligent and criminal negligence, and resulted in the death of four people.”
Bridget said the case filed Friday by her office is the latest in a series of prosecutions.
In April, Sonoma County district attorneys filed five felony and 28 misdemeanor charges against PG&E related to the Kinkade Fire, which burned 120 square miles in Sonoma County, north of San Francisco, with major bodily injury caused by negligence. Along with the fire.
Last year, PG&E pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter in the 2018 Camp Fire in California, acknowledging that its neglected equipment set the Northern California city of Paradise on fire.
PG&E is also on probation after it pleaded guilty in 2016 to a safety breach in the 2010 gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Zog Fire started two months after PG&E emerged from bankruptcy and put $5.4 billion in cash and more than 22% of its stock into a trust for victims of wildfires caused by utility equipment.
The company filed for bankruptcy protection in 2019 due to wildfires.
“While criminal prosecution of corporations is rare, one of the primary reasons for criminally charging a corporation is that illegal behavior is widespread, it is serious, it is offensive and it is so persuasive that the only appropriate action is a criminal charge. ,” Bridget said at a news conference on Friday. “My office has drawn such conclusions.”
PG&E said it has “fully cooperated” with the Cal Fire investigation of Zog Fire.
CEO Patti Pope, who joined the company in January, said in a statement, “We have accepted Cal Fire’s determination that, earlier this year, a tree contacted our electric line and started the Zog Fire. ” “We accept that conclusion. But we didn’t commit a crime.”
She also pointed out that between the October 2018 and 2020 Zog Fires, two trained arborists determined that the tree in question could remain, and highlighted some of the things the company is working on to prevent the fire.
Among the highlights, Pope said PG&E was investing $1.4 billion this year on vegetation management, and installing remote and micro grids to eliminate wires altogether.
“We are doing everything we can to prevent and reduce the risk of wildfires,” Pope said. “While it may be satisfying for PG&E’s company to be accused of a crime, I know that PG&E’s company is the people, the 40,000 people who work to make it safe and end such devastating wildfires and tragedies.” Every day for… Let’s be clear, my co-workers are not criminals. We welcome our day in court so people can learn just that.”
Popeye also said that PG&E has already resolved several claims from the Zog Fire and other claims from Shasta and Tehama counties, and will work hard to resolve the remaining claims.
While the cause of the Dixie Fire in Bute, Plumas, Tehama, Shasta and Lassen counties on July 13 is still under investigation, it may have been caused by the utility, according to Cal Fire, a report by Pacific Gas and Electric Company. Is. Presented to the California Public Utilities Commission about a week later. Dixie Fire covers 94% of 963,276 acres, a Cal Fire update shows Saturday morning.