Tuesday, September 27, 2022 - 08:45

Federal officials have initiated a criminal investigation into PG&E Corp.’s potential role in starting California’s largest wildfire of the year.

On Sept. 24, the US Forest Service removed one of the utility’s transmission poles from the site in Placer County where the Mosquito fire started, PG&E said Monday in a filing. USFS didn’t immediately respond to inquiries about the probe.

The investigation marks a significant setback for efforts by PG&E to move past its troubled history with fires. The company was charged with manslaughter for a 2020 blaze and pled guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter for its role in a deadly 2018 fire that drove it into bankruptcy. The latest investigation could also have significant financial and regulatory implications for the company.

If PG&E is found criminally liable for the blaze, it may make it harder for the company to recover those costs from customers. In addition, state regulators could increase their oversight of the utility under an agreement struck as a condition of PG&E emerging from bankruptcy in 2020.

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