Judge orders PG&E's board to tour wildfire-ravaged Paradise

Posted at 4:30 PM, May 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-07 19:30:37-04

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal judge on Tuesday ordered board members of Pacific Gas & Electric to tour the Northern California town of Paradise, which was leveled by a wildfire that may have been caused by the utility's equipment.

The judge ordered the tour as part of the utility's punishment for violating its felony probation terms, reported the San Francisco Chronicle.

PG&E was convicted and placed on felony probation after one of its natural gas pipes exploded in 2010 killing eight people in the San Francisco suburb of San Bruno.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup says he wants the utility's newly appointed board to focus the company on complying with new wildfire safety plans approved by regulators. Complying with the plan is the utility's top probation condition.

Alsup said during a court hearing in San Francisco that PG&E's top executives need to "see the gravity of what happened up there" and indicated he will likely join the tour too.

"The board of directors ought to see firsthand the devastation" in Butte County, Alsup said.

After the hearing, PG&E's newly appointed chief executive Bill Johnson told reporters he also planned to tour Paradise.

PG&E announced last month it was hiring Johnson and replacing 10 of its board members as part of a dramatic overhaul of a company that filed for bankruptcy in January in the face of billions of dollars in potential liability from huge wildfires in California in 2017 and 2018.

The utility has been blamed for more than a dozen of California's most destructive wildfires in the past two years. The November fire that essentially wiped out Paradise was the deadliest and most destructive in state history.