CPUC Approves $45 Million Penalty in Settlement With PG&E For Dixie Fire
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) today approved a settlement agreement between the CPUC’s Safety and Enforcement Division (SED) and Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), which penalizes PG&E $45 million for its involvement in the 2021 Dixie Fire.
The 2021 Dixie Fire started on July 13, 2021, and ignited after a Douglas fir tree fell and struck energized conductors owned and operated by PG&E. SED conducted a thorough investigation to determine whether PG&E had violated the Public Utilities Code or any of the CPUC’s rules, regulations, orders, or decisions.
The settlement agreement was reached after SED concluded its investigation and issued an Administrative Consent Order (ACO). This enforcement tool is one of many included in the CPUC’s Enforcement Policy, established in 2020 to better serve Californians through streamlined enforcement actions in lieu of issuing Citations or seeking a formal Order Instituting Investigation. The addition of these tools to the CPUC’s enforcement options moved the CPUC’s practices more in-line with the enforcement practices of many other state and local enforcement agencies.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, PG&E will pay a $45 million penalty, consisting of:
- $40 million in shareholder funding for capital expenditures for an initiative to transition from hard copy records to electronic records for distribution patrols and inspections;
- $2.5 million in fines to the California General Fund; and,
- $2.5 million in payments to tribes impacted by the Dixie Fire for remediations (PG&E will distribute payments to the Greenville Rancheria and Maidu Summitt Consortium, a non-profit representing a number of Mountain Maidu groups, tribes, non-profits, and grassroots organizations).
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, PG&E will also submit an implementation plan to SED, which will detail the project design for the new record-keeping initiative. SED will have the right to modify the plan, and PG&E will submit annual reports to SED for ongoing oversight regarding progress.
The new initiative will support public safety by enabling more accurate recording of information and immediate awareness of the condition of PG&E’s assets, thereby improving the timeliness of inspections and preventive maintenance, and assisting the CPUC in conducting future audits and investigations.
The CPUC has taken many actions to hold PG&E accountable for safely serving its customers, including:
- Penalized PG&E $150 million for the 2020 Zogg Fire.
- Issued a $132,500 Staff Citation for safety violations related to the 2021 Brewer Fire.
- Penalized PG&E $1 million for the 2019 Easy Fire.
- Penalized PG&E $125 million for the 2019 Kincade Fire.
- Issued an Administrative Law Judge decision penalizing PG&E $106 million for violating guidelines during Fall 2019 Public Safety Power Shutoff events.
- Issued a $5 million citation for PG&E’s failure to thoroughly inspect the Ignacio-Alto-Sausalito transmission lines from 2009 through 2018.
- Issued a $2.5 million Citation to PG&E for incomplete distribution pole inspections in 2019 that violated the requirements of CPUC regulations.
- Issued a directive to PG&E with corrective actions the utility must take regarding an incident with a Cellon-treated pole that occurred in Danville, Calif. in 2020.
- Established specific metrics to systemically evaluate PG&E’s operational safety performance and to further implement the Enhanced Oversight and Enforcement Process imposed upon PG&E by the CPUC as a condition of approving PG&E’s plan for exiting bankruptcy in May 2020.
- Directed PG&E to take immediate action to reduce and mitigate customer impacts from the sudden loss of power due to PG&E’s execution of its Fast Trip program.
- Placed PG&E into the first step of the Enhanced Oversight and Enforcement Process based on the company’s failure to sufficiently prioritize clearing vegetation on its highest-risk power lines as part of its wildfire mitigation work in 2020.
- Ordered PG&E to enhance its Public Safety Power Shutoff process.
- Ordered PG&E to create a mobile app for customers to report electric infrastructure safety concerns.
- Established standards, scope, and expectations for an Independent Safety Monitor.
The proposal voted on is available on the CPUC’s website.
About the California Public Utilities Commission
The CPUC regulates services and utilities, protects consumers, safeguards the environment, and assures Californians access to safe and reliable utility infrastructure and services. Visit www.cpuc.ca.gov for more information.