SAN FRANCISCO — PG&E Co. told a federal judge in San Francisco on Wednesday that it denies a Wall Street Journal article's implication that it knowingly delayed repairing the transmission line maintenance problem that caused last year's deadly Camp Fire.
"PG&E strongly disagrees with the Wall Street Journal article's suggestion that PG&E knew of the specific maintenance conditions that caused the Camp Fire and nonetheless deferred work that would have addressed those conditions," the utility said in a court filing.
The filing was an answer to a July 10 order by U.S. District Judge William Alsup requiring PG&E to respond "paragraph by paragraph" to a 46-paragraph journal article in February that was entitled "PG&E Knew for Years Its Lines Could Spark Wildfires, and Didn't Fix Them."
PG&E admitted to a number of the article's allegations, including that it knew parts of its transmission system were aging and that an equipment failure caused the Camp Fire of Nov. 8, 2018. The blaze killed 85 people, burned more than 150,000 acres and destroyed most of the city of Paradise in Butte County.
The cause was the failure of a steel suspension hook on a nearly 100-year-old tower carrying high-voltage transmission wires near Pulga in the Sierra foothills in eastern Butte County, PG&E said.
The utility acknowledged it was delayed in completing a plan to replace 60 towers on that 56-mile transmission line, which was built in 1921 and runs from Caribou in Plumas County to Palermo in Butte County.
You have free articles remaining.
But it argued the journal article failed to clarify that the tower near Pulga was not one of those 60 towers and that the reason for the planned replacement was not a known need for repair of broken or worn parts. Rather, the reason was that the older design of the towers made them unsuitable for adding extensions to increase the clearance of the high voltage lines from the ground or from other lines, PG&E said.
In December, the company shut off power on the Caribou-Palermo line until it is verified to be safe or decommissioned.
PG&E in its filing also denied an allegation that it neglected its transmission lines. It said that between 2006 and 2018, it spent about $1.8 billion on preventative replacement of aging lines, poles and towers and another $300 million on emergency repairs.
The San Francisco-based utility said it understands "the responsibility it owes to all Californians" to address increased wildfire risks and that "it must do more than ever before to address this new risk profile." The company is currently in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.
Alsup issued his order to PG&E in connection with his supervision of the company's probation in a criminal pipeline safety case that stemmed from a fatal natural gas pipeline in San Bruno in 2010.