Batjer Addresses Setbacks on PG&E’s tree-trimming Activities

On Tuesday, California Public Utilities’ president Marybel Batjer sent a letter to PG&E, advising the power service company to stop its tree-trimming program at the state due to fire safety concerns. According to the message’s contents, Batjer stated that CPUC would conduct thorough investigations regarding PG&E’s plan. She mentioned that if the said company deemed to commit mistakes with the project after undergoing a stricter inspection process, PG&E’s management might get handled by the state and strip the power agency of its operating license.

Batjer sent a message to Bill Smith, PG&E Corporation’s interim CEO, via letter. According to Batjer, she told Smith in writing that her worries escalated when the company’s tree-trimming project shows asset management deficits and patterns of vegetation to give its consumers reliable and safe electricity services. She added that the commission’s Wildfire Safety employees noticed a volume and rate of deficiencies in PG&E’s ongoing plan, also indicating that the said flaws are higher than those of other corporations implementing their programs. Moreover, Batjer stated that commission officers are currently re-assessing the company’s criminal trial lawsuit concerning relevant court charges. 

PG&E’s Bankruptcy Case and New Regulatory Process

After PG&E survived getting over the possibility of going bankrupt last year, Batjer revealed that the commission’s staff contemplates placing the power service corporation into a six-step process procedure of spiraling enforcement. Batjer theorized that if PG&E fails to pass on the sixth and final step of the oversight process, California may take over handling the company’s matters and revoke its business permit. However, once the process commences, the commission’s oversight actions in arriving at the procedure’s most dangerous step remain unclear.

Due to a multi-year series of tragic wildfire incidents that destroyed thousands of infrastructures and took away dozens of innocent lives, the PG&E company was on the verge of facing indebtedness. However, when the power service agency’s request to close to bankruptcy case got approved by the commission, it also created a new regulation for PG&E to follow in exchange. The new enforcement process, consisting of six steps, includes more tangible measures that regulators could execute. They can only do so if the previously mentioned power company failed to clear itself of its mistakes.

Additionally, the new regulatory procedure also consists of appointing the latest officials to supervise the company’s actions, enhanced reporting as a less-severe step, and stricter surveillance of operations. 

Despite the concerns surrounding the six-step supervising method, Batjer assured that the commission does a great job in implementing and processing its fact-finding activities regarding related matters needing further examination.

Utilities Commission’s Response to the Matter and PG&E’s Future Fire Safety Plans

In response to Batjer’s statements included in the letter, the utilities commission’s representative, Terrie Prosper, clarified the points she has written. Prosper explained via email that Batjer’s insights on the six-step supervision process indicate a wide range of possible results. Furthermore, Prosper emphasized that the letter does not mean to demand the inclusion of concrete steps in the process before the commission staff would finalize its decision. Instead, Prosper stated that PG&E does not need to follow the procedure’s stages in order and can start on any of the instructions depending on the power company’s current situation.

PG&E responded to Batjer’s letter through an emailed official statement. According to the power corporation’s spokesperson James Noonan, he emphasized the company’s attempts to address the fire safety problems of its tree-trimming program as pointed out by the commission and also mentioned PG&E’s progress of its wildfire safety project this year. Moreover, Noonan also acknowledged that the company recognizes the fire safety concerns raised by the commission and is doing its best to resolve the problems as they can. He expressed that there are many things to do and consider when it comes to thinking about the safety and protection of their consumers.