California utility Pacific Gas & Electric (Pg&e) knew power lines in Northern California could fail and cause wildfires, but the company delayed repairs for years before a 2018 blaze that killed 85 people, according to a Wall Street Journal investigation.
The utility identified parts that needed repair on its transmission lines to prevent “structure failure resulting (in) conductor on ground causing fire,” the newspaper said in a report released Wednesday, citing a 2017 Pg&e internal presentation.
The utility also found, through Pg&e’s communications with federal officials, numerous steel towers needed to be replaced because they were being used beyond their life expectancy, Kallanish Energy understands.
Despite the information it had, Pg&e delayed repairs on old transmission lines, ranking the upgrades as low priority compared to other work like substation upgrades, the Journal reported, which said it reviewed federal regulatory filings.
Wednesday’s Journal piece comes eight months after the Camp Fire burned parts of Northern California and destroyed the town of Paradise. Officials said the fire killed 85 people, making it the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California’s history.
In May, fire officials said the November 2018 blaze was triggered by Pg&e’s high-voltage electrical transmission line called Caribou-Palermo.
Pg&e also filed for bankruptcy protection in late January, claiming it’s facing more than $30 billion in fire-related liabilities.
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