Camp Fire survivors speak out against end of PG&E probation

At midnight on Tuesday, PG&E’s five-year probation period stemming from the 2010 San Bruno gas explosion ends.

Since the explosion, the utility company has been found responsible for multiple wildfires, including the 2018 Camp Fire, California’s deadliest wildfire that killed 85 people.

Those who experienced the trauma PG&E inflicted on communities are not happy their probation period is ending.

“Justice in America is supposed to be fair for all. Whatever applies to me should apply to a corporation too. If I violate probation I’ll have to pay the piper. They’ve violated their probation, why would you let them off?” said Camp Fire Survivor and Councilmember, Steve Culleton.

“Corporate decision-makers are disconnected from the reality of how much maintenance is required to safely operate their massive infrastructure,” said Camp Fire Survivor Julian Martinez. “It’s painfully obvious that the executives of PG&E are primarily concerned with profits and do not care if it costs lives to keep their cash cow in operation.”

Destruction left behind after the Camp Fire tore through Paradise, Ca (KRCR)
Destruction left behind after the Camp Fire tore through Paradise, Ca (KRCR)

In 2020 PG&E equipment was found responsible for starting the Zogg Fire in Shasta County burning 56,000-acres and killing four people.

In 2021, a tree that fell onto their equipment was found to be the reason for the Dixie Fire, the state’s second-largest wildfire, which burned 963,000-acres across five counties.

“They need to be under the supervision of the courts because they’re criminals. They pleaded guilty to 85 counts of manslaughter in the Camp Fire, they should not be let off probation. They’re a corporate entity that doesn’t care about people, they just don’t and I think it’s a slap in the face to every person, every victim of the mayhem for them to let off probation,” said Culleton.

Over the years PG&E has attempted to reduce wildfire risk, most recently implementing Enhanced Powerline Safety Setting in high-wildfire risk areas, but people do not believe it is enough.

“If you’re going to own an entity that can kill people you need to make sure it’s taken care of they’re not serving us, they’re serving themselves and their shareholders and it’s ludicrous. We’re not any safer… I wouldn’t give them another dime, but I have no choice. They’re a monopoly and the state co-signs it, the state allows them to function and get away with it. They get away with murder, it’s not okay,” said Culleton.

“They hide behind corporate personhood and a revolving door of executives to evade any real consequences…PG&E is a monopoly and the poster child of why antitrust laws exist,” said Martinez.

In a statement, PG&E said, “Throughout our federal probation, PG&E has welcomed feedback from the Court, the Federal Monitor, and other stakeholders, recognizing that we all share the goal of keeping customers, communities, and our coworkers safe. We acknowledge that we have more work to do. In our past filings, we emphasized that PG&E’s new leadership team is intensely focused on creating a climate at PG&E where everyone and everything is always safe, and have outlined various steps this team has taken to deliver on this goal. The CPUC has also established a process for an Independent Safety Monitor to continue oversight of our system for five more years starting in early 2022. PG&E has become a fundamentally safer company over the course of our probation. We are focused every day on making our system safer and pursuing our stand that catastrophic wildfires shall stop. We are committed to doing that work, now and in the years ahead.”