An expert hired by wildfire victims' attorneys recently did an independent inspection of PG&E power lines that are still operational in the vicinity of Paradise, California, and they have found one in terrible shape just 100 yards from the Caribou-Palermo line which sparked the 2018 Camp Fire.
The inspection found a power line on the Cresta-Rio Oso line with rusted parts and some apparently "held in place by electrical tape," as the Associated Press reports. And this was all part of a legal filing by the victims' and their families' attorneys in PG&E's ongoing bankruptcy proceedings. The judge in the bankruptcy case, U.S. District Judge William Alsup, reportedly responded quickly on Thursday after seeing the report on the rickety line, issuing an order saying that PG&E should be ready to answer for the evidence at a hearing on February 19.
Alsup has been asking PG&E for proof of their efforts to improve power line safety and prevent future wildfires in California, and the documentation of the condition of the Cresta-Rio Oso line is likely to work against the utility's effort to stay in the judge's good graces.
PG&E has said that it has been diligently inspecting all 18,000 miles of its power lines in Northern California looking for safety issues. But it seems like they missed one, which was still in this dangerous condition as of two months ago.
Alsup previously presided over PG&E criminal trial stemming from the 2010 San Bruno gas main explosion, and in January 2019 he blasted the company for violating its probation in that case when it was found to have been responsible for sparking some of the 2017 wine country fires, and when it was increasingly clear that the 2018 Camp Fire was their fault as well.
"To my mind, there’s a very clear-cut pattern here that PG&E is starting these fires,” Alsup said last year, per KPIX. “More money could have been spent. It’s not enough to just come in here and say, ‘judge we’re trying to mitigate it.’ That’s platitudes." He went on to say, "What can we do? Continue business as usual? Kill more people by starting more fires?"
PG&E is under intense pressure to resolve its bankruptcy to the satisfaction of Governor Gavin Newsom by June 30, though Newsom said last week that PG&E "no longer exists" and that no matter what it was going to become a new company, publicly owned or not. State Senator Scott Wiener this week began laying out a five-year plan for transferring ownership of PG&E from its investors to the California Public Utility Commission.