Kimberley Morales, THE MERCURY NEWS
A 91-page report by the state auditor says California utility regulators need to do more to ensure utility companies reduce the risk of wildfires.
According to the March audit, utilities led to two of the largest wildfires in the state from 1932-2021 including the Dixie Fire, caused by a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. line, which burned 963,000 acres and sits as California’s second-largest wildfire, and the Thomas Fire, which the report said was caused by Southern California Edison and burned 282,000 acres. The audit later adds that the cost of fighting fires has nearly doubled when comparing the 2016-2017 season to the 2020-2021 season from $1.9 billion to an estimated $3.5 billion.
The audit included that the state Office of Energy and Infrastructure Safety has failed to hold its standard for granting safety certifications to utilities such as PG&E despite serious deficiencies in mitigation plans.
“The office approved plans despite some utilities’ failure to demonstrate that they are appropriately prioritizing their mitigation activities, and subsequent reviews have found that some utilities failed to focus their efforts in high fire-threat areas,” wrote Michael Tilden, acting California state auditor in the public letter to the California Legislature.