SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- In a hearing this afternoon in San Francisco Federal Court, Judge William Alsup told PG&E's Acting CEO John Simon, "This is a crisis that California faces on these wildfires and PG&E is the single most culpable entity in the mix."
Alsup faulted the company for paying out $4.5 billion in dividends to shareholders, while letting the tree budget whither.
Alsup said, "We wound up with a large number of trees that should have been removed, and that appears to be the single biggest factor in the 2017 and 2018 fires."
The judge modified PG&E's criminal probation from the 2010 San Bruno natural gas pipeline explosion, ruling that the utility must follow state law and its new wildfire mitigation plan to clear vegetation from around power lines.
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Alsup told Simon, "We got a fire season coming up quick. By December, we'll be back here and we will know how many wildfires your company started, and I hope the answer is zero." Simon answered, "Me too, judge."
The I-Team's Dan Noyes was the only reporter to get answers from PG&E's Acting CEO John Simon after the hearing.
When asked about the tree issue Simon said, "We are very focused on safety and the work we're doing going forward. Appreciate the judge's hearing and like us I think he wants to get it right."
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VIDEO: PG&E CEO responds after getting singled out in court by federal judge over wildfire prevention
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