Shout it from the mountaintop
Tuesday September 14th 2010, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Politics

This is not a feel-good post. My apologies.

PG&E has gone to the California Public Utilities Commission, pleading that their liability insurance costs are 4x after the big wildfires last year: those fires that were sparked by unmaintained PG&E utility lines brushing trees in their right-of-way, which should have been trimmed by them and were not, causing arcing. They specifically want their ratepayers to reimburse them for fires caused by their lack of maintenance on their lines.

Okay, while you’re taking that in.  They do not want their shareholders to have incentive to hold them accountable for not doing maintenance.  They want their ratepayers to be their insurers; after all, that’s a sure thing because they can’t just walk away, right?
Oh. Well, Prop 16, then.

The San Bruno gas pipe that exploded had had a sewer line criss-crossing it that was replaced two years ago by explosives bursting it outward as a new sewer pipe went in.

This was a few feet from the high-pressure 30″ gas line.

Which PG&E said it inspected afterwards. According to the local newspapers, when pressed hard this week, they admitted no, not internally they didn’t, not that stretch of it, and no the type of pipe was not now up to code, no it shouldn’t have had that seam, that’s not standard, no, we didn’t know it was corroded. Because we didn’t look inside that particular section after the sewer work.

There was a homeowner whose walls cracked after the same sewer company used that same method near his home in Millbrae. (He sued, they settled.)

PG&E just spent nearly $50 million in ratepayers’ dollars trying to push a fraudulently-presented election measure that would have given them monopoly status and shut down many cities’ efforts to go green. When Prop 16 failed, they tried within days to get regulators to let them raise rates to cover the amount they’d spent on that campaign.

Think how far that money could have gone towards trimming trees that make the power lines arc. Towards replacing old and substandard pipes.

PG&E is trying to look magnanimous towards the homeowners whose friends and neighborhood they just blew up by offering them money they want their customers to then have to provide. Again, they want their shareholders to have a direct disincentive for holding them responsible for maintenance and public safety. As a friend put it, only the profits are privatized.

One of those who burned to death, Jacqueline Grieg, was a CPUC regulator of their lines.

Now they want her co-workers to make her heirs have to help pay for killing her.

Utter, bitter, classic chutzpah.

One might think the CEO who’s running the corporate culture of Pacific Gas And–the word that unfortunately leaps to mind is–Evil would have the sense to wear a little financial sackcloth of upgrading equipment and getting the actual work done that the public pays for while so many of San Bruno Mountain’s families, the ones still alive, stand among only ashes.

Fire the guy. And CPUC, please, do right by us all. In Grieg’s memory.

12 Comments so far
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Hope you’re sending this to the local TV station’s opinions section, too! In other times I would have said newspaper, but I suspect papers are going out.

Comment by Barbara-Kay 09.15.10 @ 4:12 am

Well said! Thank you……..and shame on PG&E.

Comment by Joansie 09.15.10 @ 6:09 am

I agree – as well-read as your blog is, THAT needs a bigger distribution list!

Comment by Channon 09.15.10 @ 7:12 am

Get this out there!! And I don’t even live in CA!

Comment by Joan 09.15.10 @ 9:06 am

I’m just too outraged for words!! They should take the cost of Prop 16 out of the PG&E officers salaries, bonuses, whatever, for the next 10 -20 years!

Comment by Don Meyer 09.15.10 @ 9:24 am

Yes, do send this along to other public venues. It’s worthwhile information for those of us who aren’t in California…

Oh, and why don’t these guys just link up with the goats? I mean the ones who travel around eating out the overgrown areas under power lines…usually there’s a shepherd there in an RV or whatever, and the goats (sometimes angora, sometimes not) have portable fencing. The fencing gets moved so they graze out the entire area. Obviously a gentle and environmentally sound solution for basic maintenance…used elsewhere in the USA. California? Bring along more goats!

Comment by Joanne 09.15.10 @ 10:48 am

I heard about the settlement they have already offered up – and all I can say is it’s not enough, and never will be.

However, as long as the government continues to let big business of the hook (think Exxon Valdeze being ‘excused’ from paying all the fine’s ordered) nothing will ever change.

and it’s very, very sad. Unfortunately, I’m willing to bet the top dog at PG&E makes a huge bonus this year. g

Comment by gMarie 09.15.10 @ 1:23 pm

Privatizing the profits, that’s exactly it. I’m sick and tired of companies who are more than willing to take chance so long as the getting’s good, but then demand a bail-out (either from rate-payers or the government or both) when all the corner’s they’ve cut come back and bite them in the butt. And yet they still scream about big government. What I want to know is, why haven’t people caught on yet?

Comment by Jocelyn 09.15.10 @ 1:42 pm

You got it sister. All that ploy about we’ll pay $$ now is just to get enough feel-good stuff going so we won’t notice they’re trying to screw us in the regulatory model. Hopefully the death of one of their own will make the CPUC stand up straighter.

Comment by Renee 09.15.10 @ 4:10 pm

Big is not better. Trade is not free if it is dominated by huge. Growth is not morally validating. Regulation is NOT a four letter word!

Comment by twinsetellen 09.15.10 @ 5:37 pm

There do occur not-feel-good moments. We’ll cope.

I had never before been aware of distribution pipelines. I wanted to know where they were located in my area of the world. So I looked them up at

It is very sobering about Grieg and her daughter. What a loss!

Comment by RobinM 09.16.10 @ 5:18 am

Sounds like these guys are taking lessons from Canadian govt officials. Need more money? Just raise taxes! Oh wait, we said we wouldn’t d that, right. Okay, we’re adding a mandatory fee to all your other axes. It’s not a tax, see, it’s a fee. that’s different. No, ou don’t have a choice about it.
oh, by the way, we’re going to ‘hamronize’ thefederal and provincial taxes. Don’t worry, anything that wasn’t taxed before will be taxed now, but the overall cost will go down because the busniess owner will save money in paperwork and they will pass that savings on to you. Oh wait, except the liquor store, they are ging to rise their prices because their mandate says they can’t lower the taxes because that $0.07 price reduction might make you drink more….

Just a couple of recent examples up here. ::headdesk::

Comment by Carol 09.19.10 @ 4:05 pm

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