When human error allows wildfires to occur, someone needs to pay the price. Destruction of our natural resources, losses of natural habitats for animals, and lost homes are just some of the consequences that arise from these misguided decisions. The more they occur, the worse things become, and usually the person or persons responsible find themselves spending copious amounts of time in jail and paying some steep fines.
For Commiefornia monopoly Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), these kinds of consequences aren’t anything they have to face. Instead, they’ll just make a settlement and shell out some money. In the two cases arising from last year’s Dixie Fire and the 2019 Kincade Fire, they’ll be shelling out $55 million to cover the costs. While admitting no wrongdoing, they can completely avoid criminal prosecution.
Normal citizens would never have this kind of luxury. Should a wildfire like this occur accidentally or intentionally, they will almost always see criminal court, and be hit with lawsuits they’ll never be able to cover. This keeps them from being able to properly atone for their crimes and instead mars them and their loved ones for life.
Favoritism in these kinds of cases is nothing new for these big companies. They are often able to pony up the hush money and keep their executives and people truly responsible from any type of punishment. The costs aren’t put on the shoulders of their shareholders, either. Instead, they do the same thing that companies like Duke Electric in Florida do after a hurricane – bump up rates and fees people are being told they have to pay.
PG&E will also be facing five years of oversight from an independent monitor to ensure they are complying with all applicable regulations. This is something the conglomerate has faced previously after a natural gas explosion in 2010 that killed eight people. Evidently, they have learned little since that explosion, and their oversight is nothing short of a joke. Instead, they keep moving forward with the same executives who don’t provide the proper solutions to their problems and instead just keep carrying on like this is the cost of doing business.
Since 2017, PG&E has had the finger pointed squarely at them for over 30 wildfires. These fires resulted in the loss of over 23,000 homes and businesses, along with 100 deaths. Previous settlements with those victims have totaled over $25.5 billion. These kinds of settlements can be avoided rather easily, and yet PG&E does nothing to change its ways. Instead, their residents pay ludicrous prices for the monopoly of their services and receive little in return for their troubles.
The Dixie Fire alone roasted nearly one million acres over Butte, Plumas, Lassen, Shasta, and Tehama counties. Inside those counties 1,300 homes and buildings were destroyed and thousands more were displaced due to fire threats and smoke risks. In this fire, the electrical distribution lines west of a dam in the Sierra Nevada were struck by a tree and started the June 13, 2021 fire according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The settlement was reached before charges could be filed by any of these counties.
2019’s Kincade fire did bring charges in Sonoma County. There, the prosecutors filed 33 criminal charges concerning PG&E’s inadvertent injury of six firefighters and their endangerment to the public from the resulting smoke and ash. Fire officials there discovered that a PG&E transmission line caused the fire that ultimately destroyed 374 buildings and sent 100,000 fleeing in fear for their lives. With 120 square miles torched, it caused entire towns to be evacuated, and according to prosecutors was the largest evacuation in the county’s history. When their last probation was up in January US District Judge William Alsup warned PG&E remained a “continuing menace to California”, and tried to state officials to get the company under control.
So, tell us again how these fires are because of climate control and not because of a company that simply doesn’t care…