PG&E is planning to award her a perhaps less-than-golden parachute that could range from $2.36 million to $4.46 million, depending on how her departure is categorized
Step 1: devastate the company you're in charge of.
Step 2: collect millions.
louder for the people in the back muuuch higher.
> If history is any guide, PG&E probably won't get all the money.
> While the utilities commission seldom rejects rate-hike requests outright, it typically gives utilities less than they want, sometimes much less. In its last general rate case, PG&E asked for a revenue increase of $4.2 billion, spread over three years. The commission approved $1.9 billion. In 2009, the company proposed spending $2.05 billion to fight blackouts on its electricity grid. The commission approved $366.6 million.
I don't really see how this is entirely the company's fault. I hate to go full unpaid shill for some massive corporation but PG&E seems to have a history of the government telling them they can't raise rates to pay for this stuff.
 2017 financials including years they had rate hike rejections in the article I quoted: http://s1.q4cdn.com/880135780/files/doc_financials/2017/Q4/P...
Don't you think they could use some of that money to perform the maintenance required?
Instead they cut it: Operating and maintenance expenses:
Thanks for the link, but this makes PG&E look even worse... since pg&e caused more fires in 2017 than the previous year, and 2018 is even worse than 2017.. now I really want to see what they spent in 2018.
Is there a third-party evaluation of these budgets? And how would not "fighting blackouts" actually harm safety?
Also, 2/3 of their gas pipelines were built before 1970
> A Chronicle investigation pointed out in October that two-thirds of PG&E's pipelines were built before 1970. That was a key year, in which regulations requiring better welding techniques were enacted.
> Also, the vast majority of PG&E's old pipelines can't be inspected with the most modern technique - a device called a smart pig, which is bristling with sensors and is run through the interior of a pipe. PG&E has also been unable to find complete documentation confirming the safety of maximum pressure levels for about one-fourth of its transmission pipelines in and around urban areas. 
Per the pdf , page 18, PG&E spent $834m capex and $4.9m opex over 4 years replacing 186 mi of pipeline. This averages out to $4.4m/mi, and much of it doesn't seem to have been in urban areas, which massively increases expense and public disapproval. So you can see the magnitude of the cost to replace the (2/3) of 6700 mi of pipeline built before 1970. Roughly (2/3) x 6700 x 4.4e6 = $19.6B.
None of this means PG&E is spectacularly well run. But the $100m they apparently were supposed to spend on pipe replacements is barely a drop in the bucket of doing a system-wide pipe replacement that we perhaps ought to be doing.
Makes you think that we should really be getting rid of gas pipelines and making electric-only houses. Maybe you wouldn’t even need to get rid of the pipeline during decommissioning? Just turn off the source and drain the network.
Unfortunately, gas is so cheap right now and also many prefer cooking with gas.
This would have happened whether or not PG&E was private. People want a scapegoat and PG&E is California's.
There are tons of news stories on PG&E if you look, many unrelated to the fires. They spent millions to lie to voters when Yolo County considered switching to SMUD. They routinely backdated maintenance reports to the government. They've had explosions in gas lines, and then there's the Diablo Canyon mess.
This is the answer no one wants to hear.
For example almost 10 years ago Paradise almost burned. There was a grand jury review afterwards(that you can find online if you're willing to search some) that pointed out that the place was a tinderbox deathtrap and major changes needed to be implemented for safety.
The problem is populations in these places, along with most humans in general, like trees and shade and the idyllic beauty of nature. People would rather have a pine tree and bushes around their house, rather than a 100 foot cleared defensive parameter.
If you were that driver and charged with manslaughter I’m sure you would feel pretty upset at the injustice.
Exactly one of those is a non-anthropogenic source, lightning strike. Those tend not to occur during dry, windy conditions because of shear and needing to have enough moisture for cloud formation. Exception: when there already is a fire, pyrocumulus lightning strikes can add more ignition locations.
So far as the anthropogenic sources, we're in control of those by definition. We should try to prevent those as much as possible outside of prescribed burns. Everything burns sooner or later, but it doesn't have to go up all at once.
Much of the ecosystem depends on fire, but wildfires that do not do as much damage as the fires California has seen recently. But hey, the fires in Paradise shouldn't really be seen as a forest management problem, but rather as an intense urban conflagration. In much of Paradise, the trees survived, but fires jumped from house to house by wind-borne sparks. That was a disaster of urban planning, where evacuation routes had been made narrower in the past 10 years as population increased.
So we can't blame PG&E for all of that. But we can blame them for crappy maintenance in an area that regularly sees 100mph winds.
PG&E lines setting 1,500 fires was definitely a way to, uh, jump start whatever process might have happened anyway. One should remember that 60 people died that, many trapped by fire on the road out (where inadequate roads were another problem). So a big fire starting but simply more slowly, might have stopped this particular tragedy. Given that a few year back, a PG&E gas line exploded killing around 30 people, this is an organization I feel zero inclination to give a pass on "inevitability".
It's a weird psychology that wants to pardon resourceful corporations while continuing to fault private citizens.
My job was to—at no cost to the occupant—install home weatherization measures into low-income housing. This ranges from new doors and seals to full attic, wall, and floor insulation. We provided this service to literally dozens of homes every working day of the year.
If PG&E fails, not only are all of the contractors out of jobs, but people in need will be denied a valuable service.
California provides a similar service (LiHEAP) with substantially less funding and far fewer benefits to the resident, and much of that funding has been eliminated in the past couple of years as I understand it.
The point is that issues aren’t generally as binary as you may think. PG&E isn’t a perfect company, but asserting that nobody would be harmed by their bankruptcy is a bit naive.
Dissolving PG&E wouldn't remove the CPUC program funding, nor would it remove the work. Contracts would need to be renegotiated, but whatever utility springs up in PG&E's place (publicly or privately owned) will still need to comply with the CPUC mandates for energy efficiency, and the state funding will continue, so that work will still happen.
What about the large number of taxpaying vendors who rely on PG&E's business?
Then there are all the taxes paid by the employees, PG&E itself, and their suppliers.
I wouldn't blame PG&E if somebody damages their equipment and causes a fire that day or sometime soon after. But if it's been months and the equipment is still lying on the ground with bullet holes in it that proves PG&E didn't inspect it or repair it for a long time.
Not one person I knew chose PG&E instead of SMUD.
The Yolo County stuff makes me sick, just like banning municipal wi-fi.
PGE clearly isn't the only entity to blame for the disastrous destruction of the town of Paradise but it certainly seems to carry considerable blame.
I don't think that implies that then PG&E should have taken the route of ignoring fire safety and imposing electrically activated "uncontrolled burn policy" here.
I mean, PG&E lines starting, say, 15 fires rather than 1,500 in a given high-wind, low-moisture night might have given some of the 60 people who died a bit more time to escape.
Based on this a PG&E caused fire could be caused by someone running into a power pole or anything else that causes downed lines. Fires from power lines dont sound like a huge deal, and those 1500 fires are spread over PG&E's whole service area too
They initiated the shift from low pressure to high pressure without proper testing inspection or notice. I assure you that any reasonable person tasked with doing that safely would have done better.
The fact that it was done so poorly indicates a critical failing of internal process.
So, no, the government did not create the electrical system and then privatize it. It was private from the get-go, and when utilities became monopolies, they were regulated.
PG&E may indeed not be entirely responsible for the wild fires but it's responsible enough that this kind of penalty is warranted - ie, trimming trees around PG&E of course was something they knew they had to do and that they failed to do (just like their failure to maintain the pipe that exploded earlier).
How California deals with fire risks and utility costs going forward is complex question. Naturally, it's made more complex by the influence large corporations wield.
In this day and age, bankruptcy still offers the possibility of PG&E sidling rate-payers with its cost while maintaining shareholder value, despite this being exactly what bankruptcy is intended to avoid. Naturally, I'd like to see the state of California prevent this but I'm not holding my breath. IE, California theoretically could seize PG&E and run it as a public utility but it probably won't and thus little will change.
1. Lot of states have strict liability of this form for utilities.
2. California is not entirely unique in the land mass of the united states (or the world) in the issues it faces here.
It is only unique in that it has not done a good job overcoming them.
All of these viewpoints seem to start from from a position that it's impossible for PG&E to succeed (due to global warming, legal climate, etc), and then ask "what do we do in that situation".
But as mentioned, it's simply not impossible for PG&E to succeed, and also no evidence that it is particularly harder than it is in similarly situated areas.
Does not seem like a large venn set to me.
"State-wide power coverage is estimated to be completed by year 2035 after a 10 year Environmental Review and pending lawsuits from neighbors who don't want power lines in their neighborhood. The costs were originally estimated for $10 billion but are now expected to be around $40 billilon"
"Meanwhile a startup called SmartZap is providing cheap electricity that you can purchase through their smartphone app."
Few big issues with SMUD, MID or TID
You’ve never been to Chicago, eh?
94 just south of the circle has been under construction for like a decade. I’ve never seen anybody working.
CPS teachers are the amongst the highest paid in the country, yet the schools are the near the worst.
Taxpayer dollars fund nothing but union graft and an ineffective police force which can write traffic tickets but not solve rampant violent crime.
The old saying in my neighborhood: “call for a cop, an ambulance, and a Pizza. See which arrives first”.
Saying “the government will do it better” ignores pretty much all the evidence.
Chicago is a glaring example, but NYC, New Orleans, Detroit, Philly and most other major cities have a similar history.
I think CA running electricity as a public service would be only good as an example to others not to make the same mistake.
And I'm not saying this from a "privatized profit/socialized loss" argument standpoint. I'm saying it from a "nearly everyone is some electric utility's customer, so when you find the utility liable, the customers (i.e. everyone) ends up paying for it somehow".
If the state assumed stewardship of the grid, the liability would still go to customers through either rates or taxes. So at that point, what we're really discussing, is how you feel about/how does fully public ownership of an electric utility fare relative to a regulated private entity replete with executive compensation and capitalistic motivations?
Once you hit up the utility for all the money you can get, either you ditch the grid altogether, or everyone using the grid is going to end up paying for most of it in one way or another. Who knows, maybe California will decide to try some grand gridless experiment. But the options are limited.
That's ridiculous. Broadly, there's nothing preventing California from seizing PG&E's assets as partial compensation for the company's past behavior. Thus the state of California could run PG&E as public utility pretty quickly if it wished and then charge whatever rates it felt appropriate, making up costs with taxes or not.
The main thing that would happen is PG&E shareholders and possibly bondholders lose their investment, high paid private executives and consultants are fired and the savings to the state.
Nothing besides the fact that the state has no interest in running a power company? They could have nationalized it long ago if they wanted to.
Bankruptcy will indeed prevent that.
Bankruptcy sets a legally-defined priority of creditors, and prevents execution of judgements (it doesn't stop them being found liable and establishing a debt, but it does prevent execution of the judgement, i.e., by seizing assets to satisfy the debt.)
> you have to liquidate (almost) all of you assets.
Sure, California could bid on the assets.
Their negligence will be our problem either way. The only solution that effects justice is to confiscate the company from shareholders entirely.
PG&E has been ramping up monitoring and maintenance (tree trimming/removal/etc) over the last couple of years.
In particular with the Camp Fire, a distribution line that size requires California PUC approval to shut it down -- due to the sizable grid impact. I can't find the reference, but my understanding is is that PG&E had asked for that approval earlier in the day/week to do the shutdown/maintenance but the request lingered (it takes time).
As opposed to legislatively forcing those assets to go where they are needed.
It seems privatizing utilities was not such a wonderful thing after all.
Reality begs to differ.
Or do you think they will just leave 16 million customers without electricity?
Can you imagine ever house with 10 wire pairs coming in from the street, one from each utility?
Competition on distribution or transmission is simply not going to happen. But it can - and should - happen on generation, as it already does in a lot of markets around the world.
Once you have a distribution network or a transmission line in place, nobody will build a second one. It doesn't make any economic sense.
Even if it was a complete laissez-faire (a bad idea, IMHO), there would be no competition on transmission lines and distribution networks.
But I do agree with more competition, particularly on generation. And you can make it better by decoupling transmission from distribution, and forcing the separate operation of each, plus a state-managed electricity pool, resulting in customers buying either from the pool or directly from generators.
California already has a distinct advantage here compared to the rest of the country. In the other 49 states (to the best of my knowledge), it's legal for the utilities to use a conductor that is grounded at multiple locations as a neutral. This type of arrangement induces nasty currents through the ground (which is, I think, why it's illegal in CA -- those currents can apparently be quite harmful to livestock that are being milked with metallic equipment, not to mention hazardous to people in swimming pools and such). But it also means that, if another phase shorts to ground, then there is necessarily a large amount of fault current available.
In CA, the distribution wires can't legally have any intentional current flowing between themselves and ground, which means circuits that detect residual current will work.
Overhead wiring is more prone to failure, but faster to fix -- a car knocked down a power pole in my street, in a few hours, the utility replaced it with a new one and strung up new wires.
In contrast, a construction crew drove a pipe through an underground power line near work, it took nearly 2 days and a street closure before they restored power.
Much of california is prone to earthquakes, I'm not sure whether overhead or underground power would fare better in a quake.
In addition this wiring is at the maximum 110 kV, you do NOT want a 380 kV feed in a major city. These things require a shitload of clearance, talk about 40m wide and 4m deep trenches!
You assume the smoker is ignorant of the fact that there is a gas leak.
It would be better to say the smoker went into a gas filled house with signs that said "NO SMOKING!", smelt gas, looked around and lit up anyway.
"Most ironic analogy ever"? You know PG&E is a gas company? Not only that, PG&E has killed people with gas line leaks?
As I alluded to elsewhere on the thread, the whole thing strikes me broadly as act of god - everything about the weather and conditions was extraordinary - power lines fall down, they fail, they spark, none of this is terribly unusual, usually nothing bad happens, so you dont hear about it.
>we just string the cables haphazardly wherever, through trees is just fine...
That's actually the same infrastructure as the rest of the nation. Or at least, that's what it's like every place in the US that I've lived. Wisconsin, Minnesota, Houston, etc etc etc.
Then when it goes awry CPUC and legislators stand far back and decry PG&E for negligence.
Most power cables near people are buried, where it makes sense. Burying cables if expensive and the risk of wild fire is pretty low if brush and forests are maintained. However, we keep putting out fires instead of letting things burn down normally. Wild fires may be sparked by an electrician malfunction, but that's merely a symptom of the larger problem of poor natural resource management.
In a third world country, wires are draped across houses in a way that is very likely to cause problems. The situation in every part of the US that I've visited is better than every third world country I've been to.
But that's not where the fires start. They come from areas that are a) dense with sap-oozing pine trees that hunger for a fire to spread their seeds, and b) so remote that maintenance checks can't logistically occur often enough to effectively prevent dangerous situations.
As you might imagine, the expense of laying underground power lines to areas like these is way out of proportion to the benefit to residents. A colossal swath of northern and eastern California is forest, and replacing power lines across all of it would be a herculean infrastructure project that PG&E definitely cannot afford.
Yes, but mostly urban/suburban areas; AFAIK, the expense would be prohibitive for long-range transmission.
EDIT: don't click directly on the link or you'll be horrified by what you see. Instead, copy the link. JWZ doesn't think highly of HN.
My understanding is that underground cables are most beneficial in areas that experience high winds and ice buildup. They may not be as well suited to CA since underground cables are just as (if not more) susceptible to damage from earthquakes and flooding. Being underground also leads to much higher capacitance in the cable, which can reduce the amount of current and shortens the cable's maximum length.
The feed that comes to my house is underground.
In my backyard, along the fence, are electric wires up in the air to feed my neighbors.
So it's a mix...
Also sparking can occur at ground air interfaces for different reasons, so it isn't a 100% solution.
It still ages, and the high cost of inspection and repair means you're going to have problems. NYC has manhole fires all of the time.
The bad maintenance on the transmission tower is what created the spark, but there's also the point that the area was such a dry tinderbox that one spark was able to ignite the tragedy.
Resilient systems don't show such fragility.
The fact that an unattended campfire, a hot muffler, or any other number of things (inadvertent or intentional) could have caused the same effect shows there's a systemic challenge here. We can grab whatever we legally can from this business malfeasance, but systemic challenges are much harder to deal with (and there's no one to easily blame)...
The tinderbox is not going away, and whatever comes after PG&E is going to be operating in a far riskier business environment.
- Found negligent in the pollution in SoCal Hinkley groundwater pollution
Climate change is a horrible thing, but blaming it for things it didn't cause is a fantastic way to validate right-wing fears. Not fears of climate change, but of irrelevant responses that give the government and their favored industries ever more power. These dangers might be massively overblown, but every time people do this it makes them a little more plausible, and a little easier to spread.
Contractors are licensed by the state to operate in their respective trade. Making the claim that contractors do sub par work is just as much an indictment of the state for licensing them in the first place.
"PG&E didn’t anticipate how quickly the drought would overtake heavily wooded areas north of San Francisco and outside Sacramento, said Stephen Tankersley, who oversaw PG&E’s vegetation-management program between 1999 and 2015. “It’s hard to believe that anybody would have predicted that it would have been like this,” said Mr. Tankersley, now a utilities consultant. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Conditions on the ground worsened dramatically and quickly, said PG&E spokeswoman Lynsey Paulo. She said the utility has reacted with speed and urgency. “We are very aware of the risk and we are doing everything we can to keep our customers and the communities we serve safe,” she said. “PG&E considers wildfire risk as a top-tier enterprise risk. It is evident in our actions.”
The utility removed 451,000 more trees from 2016 through 2018 than it had originally forecast, she said, in an “amped up” effort to deal with massive tree mortality."
"The task was complicated because some dangerous trees were on private land, forcing PG&E to negotiate with landowners, said Bob Fratini, a retired PG&E vegetation-management manager. Residents sometimes pressured crews, he said, to trim just enough to satisfy minimum requirements.
“Utilities should be given the right to remove any tree that could cause an outage or a fire,” he said. California regulators recently gave utilities more latitude in this area, saying they could shut off power to homes or businesses that prevent tree crews from working. PG&E’s Ms. Paulo said that isn’t necessary very often.
Sometimes, PG&E’s tree-clearing created new problems. After PG&E workers removed two trees in January 2015 southeast of Sacramento, a gray pine was exposed to wind and began leaning, according to a state investigation.
On a 102-degree day in September, the pine hit a 12,000-volt line and electricity ignited it, dropping embers onto dry grass and sparking the Butte Fire, which burned 70,868 acres and 921 buildings. Two people died."
These two blocks of text to me make it sound more like what you'd traditionally call an 'act of god', and not malfeasance (unlike San Bruno). While its unfortunate people died, and that there were great losses, you when you have people living in land that historically (over tens of thousands of years) had regular burn cycles, then humans came along and kept putting the fires out, I have less sympathy for those who take a loss - they should have known it was a risk of living there.
Also, I work with power utilities, having to turn the power off in a windy situation is an unwinnable situation, you either get complaints to the PUC, or you get higher fire risk - both are expensive to an extent to deal with - and without a historical record of fires in that area, its not really rational to just turn the power off, to tens of thousands of customers, and its harder to justify to your customers on its face - just as they are being excoriated now a failure to exert enough caution, if they had exerted the caution and nothing had happened, they would have been excoriated for exerting too much caution, again - its an unwinnable situation.
It becomes a bit of "boy who cried wolf" situation. In the mid-west/Tornado alley, a similar situation occurs. Weather forecast tech has become reliable enough to detect tornado conditions, and issue warning appropriately. However, these conditions do not always lead to fully developed tornadoes even though the warnings have already gone out. This leads to a lot of people ignoring the warnings and even getting annoyed at the interruptions to regularly scheduled programming.
Not trying to be NATIONALIZE EVERYTHING or whatever, but we decided its worthwhile for water... why not power?
The most dangerous fires occur at the Urban Wildland Interface(UWI). Instead of spending countless billions in an attempt to reduce the likelihood of a power line fire, in a place that historically has fires, we nationalize not building houses there?
The number of wildland fires will increase.
The number of people living in the UWI will increase.
The number of people losing all their shit in wildland fires, therefore, will increase.
It seems like subsiding this bad behavior is the first thing to stop.
Also we just passed a law to make this even worse by requiring solar on new homes.
If they continue to get bailed out I would prefer that we just have state run power or something more heavily regulated and monitored.
They're pretty destructive, causing millions (billions?) of dollars in damage and killing innocent civilians. I do not think we should be giving money to wildfires. They can't even use the money anyway.
Hopefully this lights a fire under the regulators in Sacramento.
Probably a lot of institutional memory will carry over.
Someone will keep electricity flowing in northern California...
Why do people think it's going to help them to have essentially the same co running their power again?