PG&E: Climate Change Caused the California Fires, Not Negligent Power Line Maintenance

PG&E. By Pacific Gas and Electric Company – extracted from flash ad, Public Domain, Link

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Californian power company PG&E has played the climate card.

Facing $17 Billion in Fire Damages, a CEO Blames Climate Change

By Mark Chediak
13 August 2018, 20:00 GMT+10

Authorities don’t yet know the cause of some of the fires, but the region’s giant utility, PG&E Corp., see a culprit at work — climate change. The blazes in recent years, it said, are the latest example of how global warming has produced unusually hot, dry conditions that spawn more frequent and intense fires. “Climate change is no longer coming, it’s here,” Geisha Williams, chief executive officer of PG&E, said in an email. “And we are living with it every day.”

Scientists tend to agree with that assessment. But California’s biggest utility has an especially compelling reason to link the fires to the environment. State investigators have tied PG&E equipment, such as trees hitting power lines, to some of the blazes in October that in total destroyed nearly 9,000 structures and killed 44 people. It faces damage liabilities totaling as much as $17 billion, and possible financial ruin — its stock is down about 37 percent since the fires — unless Williams can convince California lawmakers that the company’s problem is, in fact, a climate change problem.

Read more:

In my opinion it would be premature to pass judgement on PG&E for equipment initiated fires.

There are complicating factors; President Trump claims Californian opposition to tree clearing and poor Californian water management policies made the fires worse. Perhaps activist regulators prevented PG&E from clearing vegetation in vulnerable locations.

But climate is rapidly becoming a favourite excuse for companies and governments to deflect blame for their mistakes. In some cases the climate excuse is being applied in truly ridiculous circumstances.

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August 13, 2018 4:53 am

Surprise, surprise, it was not ‘Climate Change’ that caused the recent Californian wildfires, it was negligent care of the transmission lines and equipment run by PG&E. In addition, before blaming the fires on ‘Climate Change’ we might well have a look at arson, ‘Green’ inspired failure to undertake undergrowth clearance and precautionary burning off bans supported by the Greens. ‘Climate Change’ has become the one-size-fits-all-solution of first resort for all natural disasters.

Gary Wescom
Reply to  Nicholas Tesdorf
August 13, 2018 6:21 am

“negligent care of the transmission lines and equipment run by PG&E” ?
Interesting claim but incorrect. PG&E equipment was involved in the starting of only 14 or so of the dozens of fires in California. That involvement was tree limbs blowing onto power lines and in a couple cases high winds blowing over power poles. Utilities do not set the cutback distance of trees and shrubs from utility equipment. It is the state and local governments that determine that.
Remember that the reason California is handing a large part of the fire recovery bill to the utilities is “Reverse Condemnation”. This law allows costs to be handed to utilities based upon the principle that they can then spread that cost across their customer base. That is just fine for dealing with municipal utilities, they set their own rates. Rates for the investor owned utilities are set by the California Public Utilities Commission which is not allowing equivalent rate increases.
Furthermore, CPUC does not allow those utilities to carry slush funds to cover even normal costs. They are required to borrow money to handle ups and downs in costs versus income. Without assurances that the utilities will be able to collect enough money to pay their debts in a timely manner, only high interest loans are available.

Reply to  Gary Wescom
August 13, 2018 6:26 am

And then when the utilities fail because they can’t pay their bills on time. The usual suspects will jump to the fore proclaiming that private companies just can’t handle critical infrastructure and government must take it all over.

For the children.

Reply to  MarkW
August 13, 2018 9:02 am

Easier solution, make the politicians personally liable for government fk-ups related to their decisions.

Bryan A
Reply to  MarkW
August 13, 2018 9:59 am

Then the next several firestorms lawsuits get filed against the state and the state instead of the Power Company is then forced to file bankruptcy. The only people to benefit are the Law Firms filing the Class Action Lawsuits which stand to make $5-6Billion off the latest or subsequent suits

Reply to  Gary Wescom
August 13, 2018 8:34 am

Electric transmission lines can and certainly will create fires. Proving negligence isn’t easy though. Having spent my career in utility maintenance, we were always last in line for resources. Expense without profit, the desire to attract stock investments always comes first. The future is someone else’s problem. ROE is the goal. Public utility commissions sets the rates, the companies run their business for maximum allowable profit. End of the year spending or budget cuts were always a function of that. Executive bonuses for all, cutting your meager maintenance budget is the first place they look.

Part of my responsibility was to monitor, test and mitigate stray current effects. Electric transmission right of ways can throw off a lot of EMF that travels for miles. Ground faults can melt steel pipes like wax. Older electric transmission lines lose coating resistance which creates more EMF, so more power is lost before making it to the end user. The easy fix is to generate more power in which case all of the existing infrastructure in the area is subjected to even higher stray current effects, which damages all of those as well as providing spark potential. I’ve seen galvanized fence posts corrode to the point of falling over in 3 years located next to a light rail with a faulty return circuit.

There’s a lot of precautions taken by those working on other infrastructure because of the dangers of electricity. An electric transmission line can create a spark many miles away from it. You’ll never eliminate all of the issues, but if you are susceptible to wildfires, ROW clearing is a must. It is a nuisance to homeowners who build in close proximity and will often have contempt when maintenance crews show up.

Gary Wescom
Reply to  JPP
August 13, 2018 12:41 pm

Just a quick point here about maintenance budgets in California’s investor owned utilities. Every two years those utilities must submit documents amounting to several thousand pages to justify their requested rates. They include requests for maintenance costs. It is the CPUC that ultimately decides line by line how much money those companies can use for each kind of maintenance activity. A common situation is where one administrative law judge says customers need only standard service and another administrative law judge fines that same company for having cut back on a maintenance item that the first judge demanded be cut – because excellent service was not being provided at the reduced funding. The fine had to be paid. This happened with a fire in Oakland 20 years ago or so.

The CPUC has not gotten any smarter in the intervening years.

Reply to  Gary Wescom
August 13, 2018 3:38 pm

That’s the game. The companies get creative with accounting given the dynamics involved. Mass outages and safety incidents always have huge unplanned costs associated with them that hits the maintenance budget. Dropping or adding replacement projects will balance it out. In the end, all of those end up being business decisions.

Reply to  Gary Wescom
August 13, 2018 5:52 pm

Utilities carry insurance through AEGIS to cover catastrophic events. They have 5 billion in assets.

dodgy geezer
Reply to  Gary Wescom
August 13, 2018 9:00 pm

…Utilities do not set the cutback distance of trees and shrubs from utility equipment. It is the state and local governments that determine that….

Really? I’d be surprised. Cutback distance is surely determined by the technical requirements of the equipment, and I would have thought that the utility was best-placed to specify that.

Who would have a better idea about the clearance distance a power line needs? The power-line operator, or the local sheriff?

Carbon Bigfoot
Reply to  Gary Wescom
August 14, 2018 4:16 am

In Pennsylvania the Right-of-Ways for all utilities are administered and maintained by the utility that was granted/purchased by them. The PUC regulates the ROWs and approves rates. Since we have REAL hardwood trees in our State, power outages by dead fall and storm fall is a real issue. Fortunately we don’t live in a desert like California. Rainfall this month is 19+in. (Allentown area) and will likely exceed the record 22+in. Trees are down all over the place this week due to excessive storm/rainfall and flooded roadways and downed trees are interrupting power in most low lying areas—a real mess. reminds me of Agnes in 1992.

Walter Sobchak
Reply to  Nicholas Tesdorf
August 13, 2018 7:15 am

Porque no los dos?

Remember the fire triangle? Nature provides the fuel. PG&E provides the spark.

Reply to  Walter Sobchak
August 13, 2018 8:49 am

One was known to have been started by a trailer dragging a rim.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Nicholas Tesdorf
August 13, 2018 7:58 am

Many CA fires are human lit. There is good reason to suspect some arson by zealots.

Reply to  Gary Pearse
August 14, 2018 4:29 am

And even better reason to suspect that many are started by illegals who just don’t give a damn.

Reply to  Nicholas Tesdorf
August 13, 2018 8:11 am

It’s what happens with Communist government. When the means of production is controlled by a corrupt government (on behalf of the people), then nothing works.

Reply to  pochas94
August 13, 2018 9:43 am

When everybody owns it nobody is responsible for maintaining it.
When everybody is “special” then nobody is.

Reply to  rocketscientist
August 13, 2018 12:21 pm

It’s a classic tragedy of the commons. If one person pays for improvements, that person bears 100% of the cost of the improvement, but only gets a tiny percentage of the benefit of the improvement.

Reply to  Nicholas Tesdorf
August 13, 2018 8:54 am

The US Forest Service claims up to 90%
of fires are caused by humans — most are
unintentional, but some are arson.

It is nonsense to blame fires on climate change
because California was hotter in the 1930s,
and so was the rest of the US,
at least before NOAA / NASA
began “adjusting” and “adjusting”
their raw temperature data
about twenty years ago!

More important:
The fuels for wild fires in California,
in the summer and fall, were already dry enough
for wildfires, without any global warming,
and always have been !

A few tenths of a degree warmer temperature,
from natural or human global warming,
would not make a measureable difference.

I have two recent articles on the subject of wildfires,
with lots of charts, at the links below:

A long article on hurricanes & wildfires:

A short article on California wildfires:

Reply to  Richard Greene
August 13, 2018 9:06 am

Strange how we don’t have anywhere near the level of Californias wildfire problem. No, It can’t be periodic controlled burns and underbrush clearing… performed by a competent Forestry dept.

Reply to  Tweak
August 13, 2018 9:46 am

Where do “we” hail from?

August 13, 2018 5:05 am

Maintenance isn’t something that’s carved in stone. In the aircraft industry, maintenance and inspection schedules change in light of new information. For example, if one case of stress fracture is found on one aircraft, that will become an inspection item for all aircraft of the same type. Similarly, there is a figure called timex (time expired) which is the hours of operation before something must be replaced or overhauled. If something starts failing prematurely, its timex can be reduced.

Nobody says climate change is instant. There’s plenty of time to adapt maintenance schedules. Not doing that is negligent.

Reply to  commieBob
August 13, 2018 5:31 am

Maintenance is something that almost all companies & industry detest with a passion as it directly impacts profit. The less maintenance performed means more profit to investors. Usually, most companies practice break down maintenance where something is used until it is completely broken and only then will something be done to get it running once again at the lowest possible cost.

Reply to  Flaken
August 13, 2018 6:30 am

This is a claim often made by those with no knowledge of how businesses are run.

All businesses know that there is a trade off between maintenance and repair costs. Delaying maintenance saves money now, but results in higher repair costs later.
ALL businesses try to find the best balance between the two.

Reply to  Flaken
August 13, 2018 6:44 am

“Maintenance is something that almost all companies & industry detest”

Simply untrue, except for those profiteers that parasitize a healthy company then unload it when the damages begin to impact performance.

Maintenance, including upgrades, is a cost of doing business.

Reply to  ATheoK
August 13, 2018 10:15 am

Sorry, but over 30 years of maintenance tells me otherwise. Granted, there are some industries where maintenance is either specified by law, think aviation, or regulated within that specific industry.
If, trimming trees away from power lines is the normal maintenance practice, then why is it that this is not done on a regular basis? If done in-house, you are tying up personnel that could be used for something that returns a profit. Hiring outside contractors to perform the task impacts profits. Simply a no win situation that is delayed until it can’t be ignored.

Reply to  Flaken
August 13, 2018 12:24 pm

I’ve never worked for a company that skimped on maintenance.

There are no companies as short sighted as you wish to believe.

Yes, maintenance costs, but replacement costs even more. Additionally maintenance can be scheduled to be minimally disruptive, while repair can be needed at any time and typically results in an entire facility being out of operation for a much longer period of time.

As to trimming trees, in every city that I’ve ever lived in that’s done every spring.

Paul Penrose
Reply to  Flaken
August 13, 2018 2:05 pm

Public Utilities are different animals than most companies. They are heavily regulated and are more like government institutions where rates and budgets are concerned.

Reply to  Flaken
August 13, 2018 7:47 pm

You gotta love how folks like MarkW and AtheoK are telling Flaken “how it’s done” in an industry where Flaken worked for 30 years. News flash, guys, companies cut corners on maintenance all the time. CEO’s are in their jobs an average of 5 years, if they can reduce maintenance to pump profits, then they likely won’t be around by the time problems occur.

If it is strictly regulated, such as aviation, then delaying maintenance is far less likely to happen. But where there is more leeway, it is definitely an issue.

Joe Crawford
Reply to  Flaken
August 13, 2018 7:03 am

British Petroleum seems to have fallen into that trap several years ago and has been trying to climb out ever since it got caught with the Texas City refinery explosion in 2005, the Prudhoe Bay oil spills in 2006 and the Deep Water Horizon incident in 2010. That attitude of ‘wait for failure and replace’ doesn’t work very well in certain industries.

Reply to  Flaken
August 13, 2018 7:23 am

Flaken says:
Maintenance is something that almost all companies & industry detest with a passion as it directly impacts profit.

Perhaps true in some businesses, but at the power plant I worked at, there was a culture of planning & performing maintenance thoroughly. A power plant being out of service for unplanned maintenance was a no-no. Happened of course, but the plant manager got hammered for it from above and the hammering got passed down the line all the way to the hourly people. As a result, coal plants on our system, even the oldest ones like where I worked, had availabilities of 85 – 95%. So off-hand I assume PG&E has similar practices (including their transmission and distribution system). But the PG&E “bosses” trying to pawn this off to climate change is pathetic indeed — I hope it’s just public relations aimed at the CA fruit and nuts.

Gary Wescom
Reply to  beng135
August 13, 2018 12:55 pm

Keep in mind that in California, investor owned utilities are required BY LAW to toe the climate change line. It must be mentioned in their public publications and utility funds must be spent on “green” things like buying solar and wind power. They must connect electric car charging stations for free. Statements skeptical of Global Warming would cause some serious problems for those utilities.

There are probably some PG&E executives chuckling at being able to dump the problem onto the state’s Global Warming fever.

Reply to  Flaken
August 13, 2018 7:49 am

… almost all …

It’s all over the map and even varies within companies.

IMHO, the worst offenders, other than vulture capitalists, are governments. Politicians would rather take credit for saving the taxpayers money or building something new and shiny than for boring maintenance items that get no publicity.

Reply to  commieBob
August 13, 2018 11:31 am

Just look at how “well” our local schools are maintained. When it breaks they want to issue bonds for replacement. Never maintain what we have.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Flaken
August 13, 2018 8:06 am

You are wrong to think this is the most economic option with any productive assets. In the electric sparks fire, the danger was so well known it was the subject of a bill introduced in the legislature that was vetoed by Jerry. These ugly people welcome the fires.

August 13, 2018 5:10 am

Shame on PGE. They’re like the giant electric utility I worked for — the board is filled w/leftist lawyers, communication majors and other activists instead of engineers & business people, and even took their marching orders from the sierra club (small s intended)!

tom in Texas
Reply to  beng135
August 13, 2018 9:52 am

Gov. Brown vetoed 2016 bill aimed at power line, wildfire safety
You can find this with a simple search. They made several attempts to resolve power line issues.

August 13, 2018 5:11 am

Somewhat surprisingly, the BBC have today re-visited #SinkingDjakarta and used a surprising clear non-alarmist infographic about the cause being groundwater abstraction. The editorial text, by different authors, is roughly consistent with this, though climate change gets a brief obligatory mention. What is not clear until you read the small print is that the sink rate due to water abstraction is vastly above the rate of relative sea-level rise. It also doesn’t suggest that the only solution to Djakarta’s problem is the bombing the West’s economy and technology back to the Stone Age. Such calmness might be one small step against Mann, but a giant leap for the BBC.

August 13, 2018 5:20 am

Nah, large forest fires are mostly due to people causing the spark, whether deliberate or accidental, in areas naturally arid, and poor management practices.

The scapegoat is always “climate change,” because it is politically desirable.

Reply to  Jimmy
August 13, 2018 5:40 am

Right on, Jimmy. Besides, when you blame climate change, it let’s you off the hook. You don’t actually have to DO SOMETHING, you can get on with your life, feel good about yourself, keep driving your F150. What’s bad about that?

Reply to  Trebla
August 13, 2018 5:50 am

You get to scream for a carbon tax.

Steve Reddish
Reply to  Trebla
August 13, 2018 10:09 am

What’s bad here is your suggestion that driving an F150 causes wild fires.


Reply to  Jimmy
August 13, 2018 7:30 am

mostly due to people causing the spark

I think they already have some suspects. Oh wait, for PC purposes, suspects are now “people of interest”.

Reply to  beng135
August 14, 2018 2:01 am

By the looks of this dude, he’s more than a ‘person of interest’.

What gets me, why are his lawyers trying to cover him from the camera’s?

Reply to  BruceC
August 14, 2018 6:02 am

why are his lawyers trying to cover him from the camera’s?

Typically it’s because the “person of interest” isn’t white. If the person was white, their face would be plastered on every TV screen, and it would be hinted that they were a Trump supporter/far-right supremacist.

August 13, 2018 5:33 am

Sounds like “the dog ate my homework” type of excuse to me. In any case, suppose climate change was in fact part of the reason for the unproven increase in brushfire intensity or frequency. The utility itself uses fossil fuels to build and maintain its infrastructure, so it is one of the many culprits in the buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere therefore, I suggest they sue themselves.

Steve O
August 13, 2018 5:33 am

His argument is that because climate change came upon them so suddenly, they did not have adequate time to adjust their infrastructure. PG&E’s defense has the intellectual depth of a balloon, and is just about as robust.

IF you believe in all the CAGW nonsense, then you should also recognize an even greater need to clear out dead trees, and engage in controlled burns. It’s not just about building windmills. It’s part of adjusting to the global climate cycle.

dodgy geezer
August 13, 2018 5:37 am

Well, I suppose that the PG&E has a point.

You see, ‘climate change’ seems not to be happening outside the normal variation, but the CO2 which is blamed for causing it seems to make plants grow a fair bit faster.

So, if the fires are caused by trees contacting power lines, you might say that was the fault of CO2, and hence ‘climate change’……

Can I have a marketing job at Greenpeace now?

J Mac
Reply to  dodgy geezer
August 13, 2018 9:30 am

That right there is some real dodgy reasoning…… };>)

John Endicott
Reply to  J Mac
August 13, 2018 10:30 am

Which means he’s a shoe-in for that Greenpeace job. 🙂

Paul Johnson
August 13, 2018 5:41 am

From the people who brought you Erin Brockovich…

This is a dispute over the proximal cause of the fires, rather than a discussion of the underlying cause. Whether the world’s most closely monitored utility properly threaded the needle between regulatory demands, rate base allowances, and environmental protesters does not address the fundamental problem of accumulated fuel load in California’s forests. Trees only leave the forest in two ways; as lumber or as smoke.

william Johnston
Reply to  Paul Johnson
August 13, 2018 6:46 am

And the smoke has been giving us some truly beautiful sunsets up here in the upper Midwest.

Reply to  Paul Johnson
August 13, 2018 8:59 am

Natural decay provides a 3rd way in which they cease to be trees yet never leave the forest.

Mark Luhman
Reply to  rocketscientist
August 13, 2018 10:45 am

In a normal western forest decay does not work, it to dry! Fire is how mother nature handles it. Not letting it naturally burn by suppressing small fires or not controlled burning is a recipe for disaster. The greens have opposing proper forest management for the last fifty to sixty years. That exact reason we are having these big fires, to much fuel load, to much forest the same age.

T port
Reply to  Paul Johnson
August 13, 2018 5:55 pm

Most of the fuel load is not really “lumber”. It is brush or simply junk wood and overgrowth. So no $ to be made from clearing it.

Grey Lensman
Reply to  T port
August 13, 2018 9:06 pm

Lodgepole pines are all same age and dying of old age. Nature cleans up with beetles and fire

August 13, 2018 5:42 am

This is corporate America. It’s LIBERAL, not conservative. The biggest lie that you’ve ever been told is that it’s the other way around. Trump built a national majority, and rebuilt the Republican Party, by running AGAINST liberal corporate America on the issues that liberal corporate America thrived on that made life worse for the average American. Republicans everywhere should embrace this Trump Deal majority. The polls that show that Trump has 20-30% black support are accurate. That’s not an outlier. Remember Carrier? That should be the new GOP rallying cry like Remember the Alamo. It worked. The Republican Party should embrace the antitrust of liberal corporate America. Embrace the regulation of liberal corporate America. These are major winners.

Reply to  Aaron
August 13, 2018 6:34 am

As I have to point out frequently. Having money is not sufficient to make one a capitalist.

Tom Judd
Reply to  MarkW
August 13, 2018 7:42 am

Maurice Strong, George Clooney, Leonardo D’Caprio, Tom Steyer, Imhelt, Branson, John Kerry, Al Gore, Bezos, Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, T. Boone Pickens, Warren Buffett …

Reply to  Tom Judd
August 13, 2018 8:09 am


Reply to  MarkW
August 13, 2018 12:46 pm

Boxer, Pelosi, Reid, Schumer…the Clintons.

Reply to  Cascadian
August 13, 2018 2:43 pm

Those are example of how socialism enriches those who run the system.

Gunga Din
Reply to  MarkW
August 13, 2018 3:38 pm

Socialism is for the masses. Power and wealth is for the elite.

August 13, 2018 5:42 am

Here is the legal argument to debunk such claims:

Comprehensive Climate Change Debating Points and Graphics; Bring It Social Media Giants. This is Your Opportunity to Do Society Some Real Good

Reply to  CO2isLife
August 13, 2018 8:59 am

Nice job!

Reply to  CO2isLife
August 13, 2018 9:13 am

CO2 is Life
You have a very good summary, and
good charts too … for people
interested in real climate science.

However, the “coming climate
change catastrophe” is
mainly politics and junk science,
not real science.

The government bureaucrat “scientists”
have science degrees, so must know that
computer models don’t produce data,
yet they continue using their models as
“proof” that CO2 is harmful.

After 30 years of wrong predictions,
unrelated to reality, any real scientist
would be embarrassed to talk about
the climate models — it would be very
obvious they are just computer games,
with no predictive ability !

Unfortunately, truth is not a leftist value,
so the climate scare will continue
until it stops scaring people, and then
the leftists will invent a new boogeyman
to replace it.

If the general public can be scared about the future,
many will demand that their government fix the
“crisis”, and the “fix” is always a more powerful
government — and that’s what leftists
wanted all along !

My climate change blog:

August 13, 2018 6:01 am

And the invisible elephant broke the lamp, not me. The invisible cat knocked that glass off the counter. The dog spilled soda on the sofa.

You now, it used to be when kids reached kindergarten age or thereabout, they learned these prevarications were not acceptable. Now, the so-called adults run around blaming an invisible creature known as climate change to avoid responsibility for their bad behaviors. There is little hope for future generations when imagination and lies are all we have from the “grown-ups”. Hansen was right in a way—your grandchildren will suffer from global warming, but not the predicted increase in temperatures. Rather from the lies and deceptions and the unintended consequences of these lies, the destruction of science and the refusal to take responsibility for one’s actions, instead blaming the mythical creature Hansen created.

Flake news
Reply to  Sheri
August 13, 2018 11:00 am

I lost at golf today. The greens were rather fast. I blamed it on climate change. There was no other explanation I could think of.

Reply to  Flake news
August 13, 2018 2:44 pm

The only time I’ve seen a fast green was when he was grabbing someone else’s wallet.

August 13, 2018 6:04 am

Climate tit for tat is unending. Now blame the San Bruno gas pipeline explosion on climate change. In the age of stupid there are no bounds—especially in California.

August 13, 2018 6:07 am

Don’t ask me to pay a Waxman-Markey Carbon Tax in another part of the country to prop up PG&E rates of return.

Reply to  ResourceGuy
August 13, 2018 7:52 am

Resource, I can definitely see a future where the rest of the country will be asked to pay for all of California’s idiot policies, misfeasance, malfeasance and nonfeasance. I predicted it when it became obvious the California people had lost their minds by replacing Arnold with Moonbeam while also expanding the number of far left legislators. We should not forget California is destined for one of the largest natural disasters in history when the San Andreas Fault finally slips. I can even imagine that they will blame the monster quake on global warming.

Reply to  Edwin
August 13, 2018 8:01 am

Follow the money….to California.

August 13, 2018 6:26 am

I suppose Californians will be the last to learn of multi-decade cooling as it becomes obvious elsewhere. Well actually, it may be a three-way tie with the UK and Australia blinders on.

August 13, 2018 6:33 am

Does not this situation place the California authorities (whom- or what- ever they may be ) in something of a dilemma .
If they accept the PGE claim that climate change is partly to blame then Californis will not get all the 17 billion it needs for its debts .
If they reject the idea of climate change as a cause it will lessen the claims from the Governor that climate change is the cause of every ill that California suffers.
Sort of lose- lose possibly.

Reply to  mikewaite
August 13, 2018 10:03 am

I would love to see CA sue PGE for the fires. It will be entertaining to see them legally deny climate change while they’ve been screaming and suing over climate change.

August 13, 2018 6:36 am

Maybe PG&E takes the bait, accepts total responsibility and the $17B price tag, then immediately declares bankruptcy. Give the case to the most “green” bankruptcy judge and let him or her figure it out.

With sincere condolences to Anthony Watts and other California residents, this would truly transform the California power grid putting them one step closer to absolute catastrophe.

August 13, 2018 6:42 am

So why has that same climate change made numbers of wildfires REDUCE in the rest of America..? Are they saying that California has a different type of climate change, to the rest of America?

The true culprit for this increase has probably more to do with the increase in forest housing and urbanisation, with their multiple ignition sources. And the ever-rising number of Californian vagrants, who are quite happt to make a camp fire, or fall asleep while smoking.

I also understand that the Californian forestry agency no longer burn of brush with controlled fires, leading to a greater fuel load and larger fires. Perhaps someone else would like to comment on that.


comment image

David (nobody)
Reply to  ralfellis
August 13, 2018 7:53 am

As a volunteer firefighter, I can assure you there is a big difference between putting our a short grass fire and a marsh that hasn’t burned for years. You can stomp with your foot for a while (until your boot gets too hot) on the prairie but the marsh that’s producing fifty foot flames, you can’t even get close to on foot. Adding trees and shrubs doesn’t make this effect disappear. The fuel load on the ground affects how hot and destructive a bush fire is and the difficulty in controlling and extinguishing it where I am. You’d have to check with a firefighter from California, but I’m doubt they’ve successfully legislated changes to the laws of physics regarding combustion. If they aren’t allowing controlled burns and aren’t removing the deadfall regularly, it’ll be like the difference between lighting a candle on your kitchen table and lighting the drapes in the window.

Gunga Din
Reply to  David (nobody)
August 13, 2018 3:43 pm

But…but…at least the Kangaroo rats and the spotted owls and the (etc’s) still have their natural habitats!
(Oh. wait….)

Gary Ashe
August 13, 2018 6:59 am

And the lesson children = never let climate change play with matches,….

Or pot addled Commiefornians.

August 13, 2018 7:08 am

Not to be racist, but the name Geisha has definite Japanese origins and all statistical analysis of intelligence levels indicates that asians and or orientals place higher in intelligence than other folks. So, though she is from Cuban extraction maybe she’s just smarter than everyone else. For sure smarter than Jerry Brown. Give it a try, Geisha (means artist in Japanese) and good luck with that. Global warming is responsible for every other bad thing that happens so why not poor power line maintenance?

Reply to  JimG1
August 13, 2018 8:56 am

Its a commonly used parlance globally for an exceptionally overpriced painted whore.

Sorry, Japan.

Don B
August 13, 2018 7:13 am

In the Denver Posy, Climate Change is blamed for forest fires.

“Climate change is the major culprit across the West, where fires rage in California, Oregon and Colorado, but at this point we have little choice but to adapt.

“In Durango and Silverton, that means taking a hard look at another culprit — the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad — a beloved artifact of the region’s rough-and-rollicking past.

“Realistically, is there a place anymore for a 100-year-old coal-fired train that spews burning cinders across the landscape as it chugs through the tinder-dry forest?

Reply to  Don B
August 13, 2018 8:52 am

Denver Posy?
Is that a typo or a denigration I’m not familiar with?

Reply to  Don B
August 13, 2018 9:58 am

A hundred year old railroad with one potential fire attribution in its history. Sure that must be the problem. Couldn’t possibly be the area that hasn’t burned in over a hundred years.

Gary Pearse
August 13, 2018 7:55 am

There’s more bad news for CAGW in the ENSO region. I hope Marohasy and Jo Nova are keeping an eye on their BOM to ensure no data fiddling.

August 13, 2018 8:07 am

Unfortunately I have some experience with PG&E and power pole maintenance since the late 70’s over mostly loose hardware arcing and causing interference to radio receivers. PG&E’s idea of preventative maintenance is “We’ll fix it when it breaks.” They have countless poles that they haven’t looked at in decades. They need to inspect /repair/replace the hardware on every pole every 5 years.

There’s no excuse for poles blowing over, especially in the kind of winds experienced in the North Bay fires last year. Any pole that blows over in those winds was weak and should have been replaced years ago.

I was told by the electrical inspectors from the city that I lived in back in the 70’s that PG&E was required to put all new construction underground and they were required by the CPUC to put so many miles of existing lines underground each year. Has anyone seen any existing lines go underground? I haven’t. So what happened? Why was the plan abandoned? Think of how many lines could have been placed underground in the last 40 years.

Tree trimming is another issue. PG&E did essentially no tree trimming until one big winter back in the 80’s when the North Bay and Santa Cruz mountains lost power for an extended period when storms blew down trees onto lines. After that PG&E was forced into a tree trimming program.

It’s true that tree hugger types go crazy when PG&E wants to remove/trim trees that are too close to lines. These people need to be ignored.

Reply to  Chuck
August 13, 2018 8:12 am

These people, have the ear of politicians, and politicians ultimately control PG&E.

Reply to  Chuck
August 13, 2018 8:46 am

I’m not a lineman, but a few years back we had a vicious windstorm. I’m not sure what made the first pole go, but it pulled the whole line of poles down with it.

Reply to  Chuck
August 13, 2018 8:58 am

Shooting them slowly and inaccurately works a lot better, especially if a sheriff’s deputy laughs while you do it.

PG&E cannot be held responsible for the safety of pedestrians too close to power line hazards.

Dave Fair
Reply to  prjindigo
August 13, 2018 8:58 pm

I was driving along a secondary road paralleling one of my 115-kV transmission lines (CEO/GM). I saw a wood pole structure was down on the ground. My O&M people were unaware of it because the line remained energized. After radioing in the problem, the line was de-energized.

Guess what I found as the cause of the failure of the wood pole? Yep, it was “sportsmen” using it as a target for their high-power rifles. They had literally shot through a large wood pole over an undetermined time frame.

Walt D.
August 13, 2018 8:28 am

As Ayn Rand once said – you can ignore reality but you still have the consequences of ignoring reality.
Blaming it on Climate Change will not take care of the underlying problem of bad environmental management.

August 13, 2018 8:53 am

How about somebody playing the geography card. California can be dry — very dry at critical times, making most of the state a location prone to fires naturally, as a rule.

Play the history card — California is known throughout multiple prior generations for catching fire, and yet people still choose to live there in blissful denial of the geography and ONGOING, fire-producing climate for all those generations.

Or maybe somebody needs to play the blame-the-governor card, for keeping power-line maintenance out of critical budget decisions.

There’s nothing worse than somebody using a lie, simply because it benefits them economically, having positively no belief in the claims they make that creates the lie. In this case, unfortunately, the false beliefs are already well established, which causes less resistance in taking blame and placing placing blame where it rightfully belongs.

Get some brains and grow some balls, PG&E. Was that too harsh?

Reply to  ossqss
August 13, 2018 9:30 am

Keeley’s new analysis found that humans caused 95 percent of all wildfires throughout most of the state since 1910.

Reply to  Robert Kernodle
August 13, 2018 6:45 pm

And the other 5%…….

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Bryan A
Reply to  ossqss
August 13, 2018 7:23 pm

Naw. Still human caused…twas a human wot planted that tree

Robert W Turner
August 13, 2018 9:03 am

There’s only one thing I can guarantee, the places that were cleared by fires this year will not burn next year. But the places that the fires would have burnt this year but were suppressed, are at an unnaturally higher risk of burning next year.

August 13, 2018 9:12 am

The next step is to hire a consultant to confirm the science and assignment of blame on climate change. They are always on the lookout for a trusted bias contractor—like at AGU.

August 13, 2018 9:14 am

There is a negligent party, but not PG&E. The forest policies of the past 100+ years were based on suppression of fire. The viability of that strategy depended upon continued harvesting of timber. When environmentalists got allies in state and federal agencies, timber harvesting was reduced to almost nothing, except on private land. Forests have overgrown with almost 10x the stems per acre forests had before 1850.
Forests were much more open, with a great diversity of plant and animal life. Now trees are crowded together. They pull so much water from the ground (transpiration), they no longer get enough water per tree. Pines cannot make sufficient sap to fight off bark beetles, and they can die in high temperature extremes because needles wither and dry.
John Muir reported park-like forests with separated trees, so much so, a rider could easily maintain a full gallop. Fires were indeed required to open certain pine cones, but these fires were typically relatively cool and stayed low to the ground. Today crown fires kill everything, turn pine cones to cinders, and convert soil to hydrophobic clay.
The negligent parties are the government agencies managing the forests and the environmental groups like the Sierra Club who launch legal attacks any entity attempting to conduct reasonable forest thinning.

Michael Jankowski
August 13, 2018 9:17 am

So PG&E blames GHG emissions…seems like they are and have been the biggest emitter in CA and one of the largest in thr US (if not the largest).

Steve Reddish
Reply to  Michael Jankowski
August 13, 2018 2:19 pm

Actually, they blamed climate change. Have you succumbed to the propaganda that the climate only changes when humans emit CO2?


August 13, 2018 9:26 am

The dog ate our annual report excuse no longer works…

Tom in Florida
August 13, 2018 9:34 am

Perhaps someone should look into a Russian connection.

August 13, 2018 10:14 am

And… and… the dog ate my homework!!!

August 13, 2018 11:47 am

It should be obvious to the most casual observer what the cause of wildfires are today.
One only needs to look at the photographs of the Giant Redwoods taken back in the late 1800’s early 1900’s and compare those same areas ground cover, underbrush and overgrowth with recent photos. PERIOD.
The pioneers heading west frequently complained about the lack of firewood along the Platte River through Nebraska. They were warned to carry enough to get to the mountains as the nearest fire wood was miles away from the river. Today both sides of the Platte River have trees, underbrush and overgrowth extending miles from either side of the river.
Have been told all my life that most trees in Nebraska are non-native and few existed 100 years ago. look into the history of the Nebraska Tree “Conservation” Program. Hundreds of millions planted through governmental and “Conservationists” efforts starting back in 1870 for the extent of this endover. How can a conservationist knowingly plant non-native trees? Squirrels and chipmunks are now following the Platte River Valley trees across the USA. How many of the dead trees in California’s forests were nonnative and now dying off, creating more fuel for the wildfires? How did the tick that carries Lyme disease get from Connecticut to Nebraska and further west?

August 13, 2018 12:08 pm

And so from listening to the talking rings we learned that mankind descended into chaos when all sides blamed CO2 for everything that happened and responsibility was lost. Some chose to believe the biased models and (one) bristle cone pine and retreated into CO2-proof caverns. While others chose to pay dues to the policy masters to limit the bloodsucking and try to live simple lives above ground in primitive conditions.

August 13, 2018 12:25 pm

And in other news, the EU is celebrating that it has funded €11 million towards the capital cost of a battery-backed hybrid solar-voltaic-windmill power plant on the island of Tilos (pop 780). €14,000 per head looks pretty expensive for capital costs of power plant. I’m guessing it’s three times as expensive as a small-island diesel generator and five times that of large-area CCGT generators running off natural gas. Are there any power engineer economists here who can comment on the economics of power generation on Mediterranean islands?

Tom Abbott
Reply to  SuffolkBoy
August 13, 2018 6:04 pm

President Trump said tonight in a speech that if you look underneath some windmills it looks like “The Killing Fields” there are so many dead birds laying there.

Trump didn’t have anything good to say about windmills or the Paris Climate Agreement.

John Brisbin
August 13, 2018 12:49 pm

Lawyers always like to cater to prospective jurors’ prejudices and fantasies.

This is a ready-made, state-sponsored, virtue-signaling excuse/defense.

August 13, 2018 1:05 pm

It looks like they’ve found the cause of at least one of the major fires. Hint: it isn’t Climate Change.
“Arson Suspect Arrested in SoCal’s Holy Wildfire”

Gunga Din
Reply to  Robert Sheaffer
August 13, 2018 3:45 pm

Man-made forrest warming.

August 13, 2018 1:45 pm

It’s the smart, green, organic excuse with a lot of precedence in the Governor’s Office.

Wiliam Haas
August 13, 2018 4:37 pm

I am a scientist and I say that the climate change we have been experiencing is caused by the sun and the oceans over which Mankind has no control. Climate change has been going on for eons and will continue to go on whether mankind is here are not. Fires like the ones we have been having have been common in California long before mankind ever set foot on North America. For example there exists a species of true popy in california that requires fires like the ones we have been having to germinate. The LA basin was known as the valley of the smokes because of all of the fires that usually occurred there. By preventing little fires mankind has set the stage for much larger fires to happen. If not man, natural phenomenon like lightening will ignite them. The Thomas fire for example was a fire just waiting for ignition. If the power companies power lines did not start the fire, something else would have. For structures built in or next of high fire danger areas, adequate precautions have to be taken.

Dennis Sandberg
August 13, 2018 5:15 pm

One source reported that a failed transformer started the worst fire:
Utility companies shouldn’t be penalized when they are forced by political mandates to contend with “off spec” power from a dozen wind farms with a dozen turbines all operating at different times and producing different quantities and qualities of electricity. With this junk power being dumped on the grid is it any surprise that a transformer overheats?

Robert Osborn
August 13, 2018 8:00 pm

One thing not really being discussed is the impact of the near record rainfall season of 2016-17. Having lived in fire areas for a good portion of the last 65 years, heavy rains greatly increase the growth rates of vegetation. Then as typically happens in California all this undergrowth dries up. This is followed by a massive growth. Then when a following season brings much drier than average conditions that sets a stage ideal for fire. Add in more and more legal efforts to leave areas untouched to promote natural growth and denser vegetation does nothing but further set the stage. My opinion is a person only has to live through one of these episodes to see how fire is a completely natural part of California ecosystems. The renewal after a fire is one of the most impressive natural events I have ever seen in my life. Dozens of species of plants with seeds dormant in the soil seem to spring out of nowhere having apparently evolved in an ecosystem that essentially only allows these plants to thrive after a fire has taken down the dominant vegetation. Anybody who wants a great nature hike should plan on going about a month or two after winter rains return. Yes it is climate change but its really probably only climate change not seen by current PG&E managers.

Ed N. Gardner
August 13, 2018 8:46 pm

It’s the plants, stupid.

The fuel is vegetable matter, i.e. botanicals, i.e plants.

The fuel is alive!!!! It grows. Blame photosynthesis! Year after year the veggie biomass accumulates, conglomerates, builds up and up. It’s what plants do. Wet years, dry years, every year.

Former cattle pastures with wispy grass are now tick brush monstrosities waiting for any spark to burst them into mega fires. It’s right behind your house, lurking, expanding, inflating, year after year, growing more dense and contiguous. A wall of deadlies, a sea of flammables.

You can always do nothing, blame the gummit, blame the population bomb, blame SUV’s, blame gerbil worming, blame your idiot neighbors, sue sue sue.

You can blame the firefighters for suppressing Gaia’s wonderful natural healing fires. Okay. Next time you pull the fire alarm, we’ll just watch you roast. Then you can blame yourself, Einstein.

But that won’t stop the plants.

August 14, 2018 2:08 am

Negligence in powerline maintenance has been a cause of fire in Australia, and we apprehend that an increasingly problematic cause of fires will be wind turbines throwing bearings and dropping blazing oil upon the terrain. Whatever the cause of fire, the most important contributing factor to the severity of the fire is not temperature but the quantity of available fuel. In Australia and reportedly in California immense danger has been caused by reckless Green-inspired reluctance to cool burn and minimize fuel loads. A website well worth visiting is Dr Christine Finlay PhD is Australians foremost academic expert on bushfires (wildfires in USspeak).

August 14, 2018 2:35 am

More echo-chamber fake news.

Williams says “global warming has produced unusually hot, dry conditions”

Bllomberg fakes that up into: “…CEO Blames Climate Change”

Not satisfied with Bloombergs pussy-footing around Eric sexes it up to:
“PG&E: Climate Change Caused the California Fires”

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