A U.S. judge berated Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. on Wednesday, accusing the nation’s largest utility of enriching shareholders instead of clearing trees that can fall on its power lines and start fires and making “excuses” to avoid turning off electricity when fire risk is high.
Judge William Alsup in San Francisco did not immediately order PG&E to take any of the dramatic measures he has proposed to try to stop more wildfires.
But he warned that he was not ruling out at least some new requirements on the company if it did not come up with a plan to “solve” the problem of catastrophic wildfires in California.
“To my mind, there’s a very clear-cut pattern here: that PG&E is starting these fires,” Alsup said. “What do we do? Does the judge just turn a blind eye and say, ‘PG&E continue your business as usual. Kill more people by starting more fires.'”
Alsup is overseeing a criminal conviction against PG&E on pipeline safety charges stemming from a 2010 gas line explosion in the San Francisco Bay Area that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.
He proposed earlier this month as part of PG&E’s probation that it remove or trim all trees that could fall onto its power lines in high-wind conditions and shut off power when fire is a risk regardless of the inconvenience to customers or loss of profit.