PG&E slapped with more lawsuits amid North Bay inferno probes


SAN FRANCISCO — PG&E was jolted on Tuesday with a fresh round of lawsuits brought by victims of a series of lethal infernos in the North Bay a few weeks ago, the latest challenge to a besieged utility that is enmeshed in the aftermath of the fiery catastrophe.

The October wildfires in the Wine Country and nearby areas killed 43 people and torched at least 245,000 acres in six counties.

“This calamity was preventable,” Frank Pitre, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the new litigation, said Tuesday during an announcement of the lawsuits.

PG&E has $800 million in insurance to cover any liabilities for the Wine Country fires. During a recent conference call with analysts, PG&E stated The company stated during the call that it would ask the PUC to let it boost customers’ monthly electricity bills if actual North Bay fire expenses exceed that coverage.

San Francisco-based PG&E has been in hot water in recent years in the wake of a September 2010 explosion of a gas pipeline that killed eight people and destroyed a San Bruno neighborhood.

In April 2015, the state Public Utilities Commission imposed a $1.6 billion penalty on PG&E, the largest such financial punishment ever levied on an American utility, for causing the fatal blast. In August 2016, a federal grand jury found PG&E guilty for crimes it committed before and after the San Bruno explosion, including an attempt by the utility to obstruct a National Transportation Safety Board probe into the blast. In January, PG&E became a convicted felon when a federal judge sentenced the utility on six criminal convictions determined by the jury.

“No amount of advertising, no number of criminal convictions, including misleading the NTSB, seems to change a culture at PG&E that puts profits ahead of safety,” Pitre said.

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Source:: The Mercury News

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