SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The Latest on how a California utility’s role in wildfires could affect its terms of probation in a separate criminal case (all times local):
A California utility says any determination that it started a wildfire by recklessly operating power lines in violation of law would bear on its probation in a criminal case.
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. said in a court filing late Monday that such a finding would implicate the requirement that it not commit any other crime while on probation.
A U.S. judge had asked the company to explain any role it may have played in a massive wildfire that destroyed the Northern California town of Paradise and killed at least 86 people. Judge William Alsup also wanted to know how any determination that PG&E’s reckless operation of power lines caused a wildfire would affect the criminal sentence he is overseeing against the utility.
That 2017 sentence followed PG&E’s conviction on charges stemming from a deadly 2010 gas pipeline explosion in the San Francisco Bay Area.
PG&E said in its filing that state fire officials had yet to release their conclusions about the fire that destroyed Paradise. The company, however, said PG&E employees were among the first to observe the fire.
Federal prosecutors say a California utility’s role in igniting wildfires last year could allow a judge to find that it violated terms of its criminal conviction in a deadly gas pipeline explosion.
In a court filing Monday, the U.S. attorney’s office in San Francisco cited investigations by state officials that blamed Pacific Gas & Electric power lines for some of the fires in October 2017. Investigators also said they found evidence PG&E violated state law.
Prosecutors say a judge could use those facts to determine that the utility violated conditions of its probation in a conviction stemming from an explosion of one of its natural gas lines in 2010. The blast in the San Francisco Bay Area killed eight people.
PG&E didn’t immediately return a request for comment.