California officials on Thursday voted to toughen oversight of Pacific Gas & Electric, saying the utility had largely failed to perform required tree-trimming work near power lines in areas with the highest risk of wildfires.
The unanimous vote by the California Public Utilities Commission comes as the fire-prone state has stepped up scrutiny of utility efforts to mitigate wildfire risk. Climate change is fueling increasingly frequent and intense blazes in the state that are often ignited by power infrastructure.
PG&E emerged from bankruptcy less than a year ago. It had sought protection from creditors after major wildfires sparked by its equipment in 2017 and 2018 drove the utility’s potential liabilities into the tens of billions of dollars.
PG&E completed about 1,800 miles of tree-trimming in 2020, but focused that work on the least risky circuits in its system, according to a Commission document.
“PG&E’s own reports show that a significant portion of the total miles for the 20 highest risk circuits remains unworked,” according to the report.