Butte Fire victims are just now getting a letter from PG&E offering to clean up some of the woody debris left from the fire. Sounds good, but is it really? Here are some of the concerns:
- No details. We’ve been asking PG&E since October to let us see the forms they want the residents to sign before getting the work done. It still hasn’t shown us. All we’ve seen is a “Notice of Work” form. What’s the big secret? Why can’t the victims’ attorneys see the documents PG&E wants the victims to sign?
- Impossibly short opt-in deadline. Property owners must opt-in by December 31. That’s too short a time frame for owners to obtain advice on what to do. After all this time, if the offer is legit, what’s the rush?
- Ulterior Motive? PG&E’s form asks the owner to initial and agree to PG&E’s inventory of the number of the trees they remove, as well as the trees’ size. Why? Is PG&E trying to get victims to agree with their count of the dead trees, to use later against the property owners in lawsuits?
- Double talk. PG&E’s brochure states that a tree qualifies for removal if, for example, the tree "is reasonably accessible by equipment/machinery". Does that mean it will remove all tree debris of any size that is "reasonably accessible by equipment/machinery"? "Reasonable" to whom? And accessible to what type of equipment or machinery?
- PG&E keeps the value: PG&E wants to take the trees, but not pay for them. Rather, PG&E says that the wood it will haul away is to be considered "donated." PG&E is a billion dollar corporation. Why does it need the fire victims to donate to it?
While PG&E’s public relations team may be trying to boost its good will among the residents of Calveras and Butte County, it may also be trying to limit what it will have to pay property owners going forward.