PG&E quietly declared 'safe company' by Gov. Newsom's administration after sparking CA wildfires

ByBrandon Rittiman ABC logo
Thursday, February 3, 2022
PG&E declared 'safe company' by Newsom administration
Arson investigators recently announced PG&E sparked the Dixie Fire, burning almost a million California acres last year.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The Newsom administration quietly recertified PG&E as a "safe" company - despite officials making the utility company responsible for the wildfires.

The news comes as PG&E's past wildfire victims lost money because they were paid partly in shares of company stock.

Activists to the left of Governor Gavin Newsom have been watching, and they don't like what they see: They watched Newsom win office with more than $200,000 of PG&E campaign money.

RELATED: PG&E power lines sparked massive Dixie Fire in Northern California, officials say

Cal Fire said Tuesday that the blaze began last July after a tree hit electrical distribution lines in the Sierra Nevada.

Three days after the election, they watched PG&E burn down Paradise, which led to 85 felony convictions, and they watched the governor sign AB 1054, the law that bailed PG&E out of bankruptcy.

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That law is why the "Reclaim Our Power" group set up a Zoom call:

Here's what they mean:

Arson investigators recently announced PG&E sparked the Dixie Fire, burning almost a million acres last year.

They don't think it was innocent- they forwarded it to prosecutors for possible criminal charges.

RELATED: 5 Northern California counties suing PG&E over deadly Dixie Fire

Five Northern California counties are suing PG&E for damage done by the deadly Dixie Fire.

Even so, PG&E is already planning to take 150 million dollars from a state insurance fund to help pay for damage the Dixie Fire caused.

PG&E can tap that fund because last year it had an official state safety certificate.

Created by AB 1054- the law that Governor Gavin Newsom not only signed- but that our investigation shows his office paid to have written.

These activists were lobbying the governor to reject this year's safety certificate for PG&E before the deadline next week.

"We have requested a meeting with Gov. Newsom and his lead staff is going to meet with us next week," said Mari Rose Taruc with Reclaim Our Power.

But unbeknownst to them, the Newsom administration had already quietly approved PG&E's safety certificate.

Just before the zoom meeting, we found it on the administration's website.

"That is news to us, and terrible, terrible news," said Pete Woiwode from Reclaim Our Power.

RELATED: Dixie Fire explodes to size larger than Los Angeles, 3rd largest in California state history

The Dixie Fire burning in Plumas County of the Northern Sierra has burned the town of Greenville, challenging nearly 5,000 firefighters.

The group is calling on the governor to reconsider.

It's not enough, they argue, to spend money on fire prevention.

Meantime, an update on this: Gov. Newsom walked away last year when we asked about PG&E's settlement with past wildfire victims.

They were paid partly in shares of PG&E stock- which was never worth as much as advertised.

RELATED: PG&E tests AI cameras to spot wildfires in Northern California

With devastating cycles of wildfires now menacing Northern California, PG&E, is expanding its network of HD cameras.

And, it became official.

The victims trust fund sold its first shares- for 80 million dollars less than the amount victims were told to expect. In Sacramento, I'm Brandon Rittiman.>

We asked the governor's office again whether he would help make those victims whole- and whether the administration would reconsider the safety certificate awarded to PG&E this week.

The Newsom administration says that certificate is good for 12 months- and that it does not mean PG&E has taken "all possible steps" to prevent sparking more fires.