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OffbeatCalifornia's Top Prosecutor Drawn Into PG&E Wildfire Probe

15:05  06 december  2018
15:05  06 december  2018 Source:   bloomberg.com

Man donates $1,000 checks to Paradise High students, staff displaced by wildfire

Man donates $1,000 checks to Paradise High students, staff displaced by wildfire A San Diego man donated a $1,000 check to every student and staff member at Paradise High School after the Camp Fire Wildfire destroyed their town.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CalFire, also said its investigators had found “evidence of alleged violations of state law” by Pacific Gas & Electric Company and referred those cases to county prosecutors for further review. PG & E issued a statement in response saying

Pacific Gas and Electric Company provides natural gas and electric service to approximately 16 million people throughout a 70,000-square mile service area in northern and central California . Meeting the challenges of wildfire and extreme weather.

California's Top Prosecutor Drawn Into PG&E Wildfire Probe© Bloomberg Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) workers repair a transformer in Paradise, California, U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018. The number of acres burned in the blazes -- including the Hill and Woolsey fires in Southern California, and the Camp fire in Northern California, which has killed at least 48 people and destroyed the city of Paradise -- already is higher than the total burned in wildfires last year, A.M. Best Co. wrote in a report late Tuesday.

(Bloomberg) -- California Attorney General Xavier Becerra was asked by a federal judge to weigh in on whether reckless operation of power lines by PG&E Corp. in connection with deadly Northern California wildfires would constitute a crime.

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Catastrophic wildfires continue to ravage California , as one blaze nearly doubled in size over the weekend, becoming fourth largest in the state' s history.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CalFire, also said its investigators had found "evidence of alleged Causes cited by CalFire included downed power lines and trees blown into electrical wires -- all equipment owned by PG & E -- during the course of fierce winds that roared

The request by U.S. District Judge William Alsup Wednesday comes on the heels of his order last week demanding assurances from PG&E by Dec. 31 that its electric grid hasn’t endangered the public. The company is under the judge’s supervision after it was convicted of safety violations in the wake of a natural gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people in 2010.

PG&E is under intense scrutiny over whether its equipment sparked the Camp Fire, which killed 85 people and leveled the town of Paradise in Northern California. Residents who lost loved ones and homes have filed lawsuits against the utility, blaming the company’s power lines for starting the fire. No cause has been determined.

Number of missing after California fire dwindles to 49

Number of missing after California fire dwindles to 49 The number of people listed as missing after Northern California's catastrophic wildfire has been whittled to 49. The figure announced Friday night by the Butte County Sheriff's Office shows authorities have made significant progress in accounting for survivors of the deadliest wildfire in state history. Two weeks ago, the number of people listed as unaccounted for was 1,300. The Nov. 8 wildfire all but leveled the town of Paradise and ravaged neighboring communities. Thousands were forced to flee, and in the aftermath many survivors scattered to other towns or cities and did not think to tell authorities or relatives that they were safe.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CalFire, also said its investigators had found "evidence of alleged violations of state law" by Causes cited by CalFire included downed power lines and trees blown into electrical wires -- all equipment owned by PG & E -- during the course of

Maps and latest info on wildfires throughout California . This interactive map was developed in The San Francisco Chronicle newsroom and provides information on wildfires burning across California .

Why California Wildfires Put Heat on Power Companies: QuickTake

The company said in a statement that it was aware of the court’s notice and was reviewing it. “We continue to focus on assessing infrastructure, safely restoring power where possible, and helping our customers recover and rebuild,” the company said.

Gallery by photo services

PG&E remains on probation -- and forbidden from committing new crimes -- after it was slapped in January 2017 with a maximum fine of $3 million by another San Francisco federal judge, Thelton Henderson, who said its felony crimes related to its gas pipeline operations were “very serious and pose great risk to the public safety.” Alsup inherited the case when Henderson retired.

Alsup has a history of referring matters under his supervision to prosecutors for further investigation. When he was presiding over Waymo’s lawsuit accusing Uber Technologies Inc. of trade-secret theft, he referred the case to federal prosecutors.

44 People Killed

State investigators have blamed PG&E’s equipment for causing 17 of last year’s devastating wine country fires that killed 44 people and have alleged violations of state law in 11 of those incidents. PG&E has lost a chunk of its market value in the past year amid concerns about the ability of the utility to cover mounting liabilities.

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In California , Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, and New York, criminal prosecutions are brought in the name of the People. In appellate courts, the Office of the Prosecutor is called Procura Generale and the Chief Prosecutor the Procuratore Generale ( PG ).

Opponents included AARP California , the California Farm Bureau Association, Sierra Club California , Western States Petroleum Association and other groups. While PG & E emerged with a victory before last week’s furious lawmaking deadline, the long-running push to expand California ’ s grid outside of

The judge’s question about whether the utility faces potential criminal liability for its conduct comes less than two months after PG&E reached a $1.5 million settlement with a local prosecutor, Mike Ramsey, who was investigating the company’s role in three wildfires from 2017. Ramsey is the district attorney for Butte County, which was also ground zero for this year’s Camp Fire.

Ramsey and Becerra didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Alsup’s latest filing.

In a 1997 case, PG&E was convicted of 739 misdemeanor counts of criminal negligence for a pattern of failing to trim trees near its power lines -- which at the time was the biggest criminal case ever against the state’s largest utility and carried a maximum fine of $2 million, according to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle.

As of June, PG&E was under investigation by elected district attorneys in the counties of Sonoma, Lake, Napa and Humboldt for eight of 2017’s Wine Country fires.

To contact the reporters on this story: Mark Chediak in San Francisco at [email protected];Kartikay Mehrotra in San Francisco at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Ryan at [email protected], ;Elizabeth Wollman at [email protected], Peter Blumberg

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

All evacuation orders lifted in deadly California wildfire.
All evacuation orders have been lifted in Paradise more than a month after a devastating wildfire that wiped out the Northern California town. The fire that broke out Nov. 8 killed at least 86 people and destroyed 14,000 homes in Paradise and nearby communities in the Sierra Nevada foothills. This will be the first time many residents get to see their property since fleeing the firestorm. The Butte County health officer issued an advisory strongly urging people not to live on destroyed property until it is declared clear of hazardous waste, ash and debris.

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