Regulators Ignored PG&E's Long History of Safety Violations

Safety regulations were supposed to prevent the San Bruno fire.  But they didn’t.  One reason is that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC president pictured) didn't do its job.  Instead of enforcing the CPUC Commissioner Peeveyregulations, when the CPUC caught PG&E in a violation, it let PG&E slide.  Not just once. But more than 400 times in the past 6 years.  That’s according to the CPUC’s own records. 

PG&E is the worst safety violator of all the utilities in the state of California. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, 410 “probable” violations since 2005. Yet, in not one case did the CPUC fine PG&E. Instead, it let PG&E off with a warning.  Every time.

Why?  The CPUC says that it goes easy on PG&E for two reasons. First, it “assumes” PG&E has an interest in safety. According to the Chairman of the CPUC’s consumer safety division:

We operate under the assumption they are interested in having a safely operated system.

But given PG&E’s history of running its equipment to failure, why would the CPUC “assume” that PG&E is interested in safety? The fact of the matter is that PG&E is not interested in safety.  It is interested in profits.  Anyone who doubts that need only read PG&E’s somewhat indifferent warning to shareholders about the problems with its gas operations. Though PG&E showed great concern that an explosion might be a drain on profits, it expressed no concern for what an explosion might do to its customers.  PG&E gave the CPUC no real reason to believe it was interested in safety.

Next, the CPUC says it let PG&E slide because the CPUC didn’t see a disturbing 'trend".

If we saw a trend that gave us concerns in terms of what we are finding out there, we would take enforcement action. 

A trend? How about 410 violations in the past 6 years? Does that not constitute a "trend"? Exactly how many violations does the CPUC need?

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