Thursday, October 22, 2020 - 08:15

PG&E Corp. prioritized meeting inspection targets over meaningful reduction of wildfire risk, according to a monitor overseeing the utility’s program of trimming trees and vegetation that pose a threat of igniting devastating blazes in California.

Among the court-appointed compliance monitor’s findings: The company failed to conduct detailed climbing inspections of 967 transmission structures located in high-fire risk areas before the start of peak wildfire season. Wind damage to one such tower was the cause of the state’s deadliest fire, which killed 85 people and destroyed the town of Paradise.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup said in a court filing Tuesday that the monitor has uncovered numerous shortcomings due to human error and a failure to escalate problems.

The failures are “the same problems that offender PG&E has long had,” Alsup wrote. He set a Nov. 3 deadline for the utility to respond.

The judge oversees the company’s criminal probation stemming from a conviction for safety violations after a fatal gas-pipeline explosion in 2010. He has previously harshly criticized PG&E for falling behind on fire safety maintenance, including vegetation management.

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