Murder Charges Across State
After the deadly 2017 California wildfires Cal Fire directed local prosecutors from fire ravaged communities to independently press criminal charges against PG&E in their home counties. In a court filing in December, Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra’s office said the utility could be charged with murder or involuntary manslaughter if authorities determine that the many deadly California wildfires ignited as a result of the “reckless” operation or maintenance of power line.
In a surprise move the four independent district attorneys bringing charges against the utility announced they were absolving PG&E of guilt for “insufficient evidence” to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the utility acted with reckless disregard for human life in causing the fires. “Reckless operation and disregard for human” may be difficult to prove in court as PG&E has written many of their own safety compliance measures, they possess an army of high powered attorneys, enjoy considerable influence over lawmakers and policy makers in the capitol and on the California Public Utilities Commission, who are meant to oversee them.
Worse To Come
The cause of 2018’s Camp Fire, which killed 85 people, has not officially been determined but PG&E had admitted their equipment is likely at fault. On the morning of Nov 8th fire was seen spreading from the base of a sparking transmission tower where they found broken equipment and downed power lines. The specific tower has a shoddy maintenance history, having been inspected only once in decades, although PG&E received money for and delayed repairs every year for the last five years. A clear cut case to many, PG&E’s culpability in the 2018 Camp Fire has yet to be determined, but legal experts caution the chances are slim that PG&E will ever face criminal charges.