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Force PG&E To Change Its Irresponsible, Criminal and Murderous Behavior

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We the undersigned call upon the California Attorney General, Mr. Xavier Becerra, to launch and pursue a full and extensive criminal investigation of Pacific Gas and Electric and its executives and responsible managers into possible criminal negligence, as well as other felony crimes, leading up to and causing at least two of the recent deadly and massively destructive fires in the Northern California area. 

Over the last several decades or more, Pacific Gas and Electric has displayed a shocking indifference to public safety.  Incontrovertible evidence taken directly from their past behavior, confirms this as a systemic pattern and that no significant improvement in behavior or priority has been demonstrated.  It is abundantly clear that Pacific Gas and Electric's failure to properly maintain the power distribution infrastructure that it owns and is responsible for, played a major role in causing at least two of the deadly fires that have recently ravaged Northern California.

PG&E's indifference and failure to prioritize public safety may be shocking but it is fully in keeping with their past deadly bad corporate behavior.  Their pattern of collecting funds for safety inspections and maintenance and then “re-directing” those same funds to pay out in the form of executive bonuses and increased profits to their shareholders goes back decades.  Even the collective effect of record fines and public disparagement has not had any perceivable positive impact on the behavior of this largest private energy company in the United States. 

Here is a small sample of PG&E’s terrible corporate bad behavior, highlighting just a few of the more deadly and destructive examples of this pattern in recent history: 

The San Bruno pipeline explosion occurred on September 9, 2010, in San Bruno, California, a suburb of San Francisco.  In this example a 30-inch diameter steel natural gas pipeline owned and operated by Pacific Gas & Electric exploded into flames in the Crestmoor residential neighborhood, near the San Francisco International Airport. 

As of September 29, 2010, the death toll reached eight people, with scores more injured, many of them seriously.  The property damage was extensive. 

The utility giant was convicted of six felony charges arising from the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion.  PG&E was assessed record fines, but its behavior and history since that preventable disaster does NOT indicate any substantive change in corporate behavior with regard to public safety. 

PG&E didn't reach out to the families of the victims but released a statement, which said in part: "We at PG&E have committed ourselves to a goal of transforming this company into the safest and most reliable energy provider in America. Of course, words are not enough, and we expect to be judged by our actions."  However, little appears to have changed since PG&E released that statement. 

It is important to note that several years prior to the San Bruno explosion, PG&E’s own internal safety assessment clearly identified safety concerns about the aging gas pipelines that were buried in the same San Bruno neighborhood where the deadly explosion occurred.  This is clearly and incontrovertibly demonstrated by the fact that well before the explosion, representatives of PG&E applied to the California Public Utilities Commission for rate increases to fund safety inspections and maintenance and repair to the very same gas pipelines that failed and exploded, destroying the San Bruno neighborhood in 2010 and killing eight people. 

In the course of the investigation that followed the deadly 2010 explosion evidence proved that instead of using the special funds that PG&E collected for the stated purpose of safety inspections, upgrades and maintenance, it used the money to pay out executive bonuses and to increase the profits of its shareholders. 

Following the 2010 San Bruno explosion, PG&E was convicted of six felonies in relation to its fraudulent misuse of money and failure to adhere to proper safety standards and regulations. 

PG&E has been found guilty of negligence in more many fires in the past, in addition to the deadly explosion San Bruno explosion in 2010, as well as major fires since then.  The list includes the 2015 Butte Fire in Amador County, California, which burned more than 70,000 acres and killed two people.    

California law requires power lines to be at least 4 feet away from branches, as even a single tree-power line collision could spark a fire. State officials charged PG&E with over-looking dangerous trees in its 2014 and 2015 inspections, leading to the Butte Fire.  PG&E had advance warning that their reckless failure to maintain their power lines and obey the laws was creating a serious danger.  They did not adequately respond to the danger. 

In view of the fact that the most recent revenue statements for PG&E list the annual company revenue as being in excess of 17 billion dollars, it is clear that they have the means to manage and operate their infrastructure in far safer ways.  Their failure to reform, despite terrible PR and record fines, (the maximum the applicable laws allow), demonstrates that civil penalties are not likely to induce this giant corporation to prioritize public safety, nor to modify its behavior for the public good. 

Therefore, we the undersigned, call upon you, Mr. Xavier Becerra, Attorney General of the State of California, to immediately launch a vigorous investigation to ascertain possible criminal behavior on the part of PG&E as a whole, and the relevant and specific executives and managers who may be responsible.  This investigation must include consideration of multiple counts of involuntary manslaughter, fraudulent misuse of publicly-collected funds, and whatever other felonies may be supported by the evidence found. 

Further, we the undersigned, petition that any such individuals, including executives of PG&E, be held to account, with the maximum criminal charges preferred, and that the maximum applicable criminal penalties be vigorously pursued. 

Further, if the evidence demonstrates that members of the California Public Utilities Commission bear responsibility for any of the criminal behavior included in this petition, either as direct perpetrators or as aiders and abettors, please include the appropriate parties in your investigation and possible eventual indictments. 

Lastly, due to the grave issues of public safety at stake, massive destruction of property, public and private, and multiple fatalities caused by an ongoing pattern of willful negligence, we call upon you and your office to make the results of your investigation public as soon as this is legally possible. 

Thank you in advance for your consideration in this most urgent and weighty matter.


The Undersigned

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