Quote of the week – Federal Judge: ‘Global warming is not starting these fires.’

SAN FRANCISCO — A day after PG&E filed for bankruptcy protection from what could be multi-billion dollar wildfire liability costs, a federal judge Wednesday declared the beleaguered utility in violation of its probation for the 2010 San Bruno gas pipeline explosion and spent three hours excoriating the company for its role in the blazes that have ravaged Northern California over the past two years.

“Does a judge turn a blind eye and let PG&E continue what you’re doing, let you keep killing people?” U.S. District Judge William Alsup said inside the San Francisco courtroom. “Can’t we have electricity that is delivered safely in this state?”

The finding sets the stage for the judge to add additional and costly terms to Pacific Gas & Electric’s criminal probation for the deadly pipeline blast — requirements such as inspections and tree trimming the utility says could cost billions of dollars and lead to customer rates rising five-fold. Alsup, who is monitoring the utility’s federal probation, did not make that decision at Wednesday’s hearing but said he would soon, as fire season begins in June. He said he would pay close attention to what PG&E submits as its newly required wildfire mitigation plan. That plan is due next week as part of a new state law.

Alsup opened the hearing before a packed courtroom by comparing PG&E to a drug dealer who violates probation by committing a different crime. He noted that PG&E equipment was involved in starting 17 recent wildfires and dismissed the company’s claims that it warned its probation monitor that the Butte County District Attorney’s office was investigating criminal actions by the utility involving fires during 2017. That inadequate notification, Alsup ordered, was a probation violation.

“Those fires killed 22 people, burned alive in their cars and homes,” Alsup said. “There is one clear pattern here: PG&E is starting these fires. Global warming is not starting these fires.

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135 thoughts on “Quote of the week – Federal Judge: ‘Global warming is not starting these fires.’

    • We need a judge to explain that
      the history of global warming,
      in the past 20,000 years,
      has been 100% good news.

      It’s only the predictions of
      FUTURE global warming,
      that are 100% bad news.

      And they always have been !

      After 30 years of those
      bad news climate predictions,
      all we have had, in reality,
      is mild, harmless, intermittent
      global warming, that has been
      very slow in the years since 2003.

      The rate of warming since 1950,
      when extrapolated into the future,
      suggests +1 degree C. of warming
      in the next 200 years
      = more mild, harmless, intermittent
      global warming, and that’s a
      worst case estimate, assuming
      CO2 caused ALL the warming
      since 1950.

      We could just as easily get
      lots of global cooling
      in the next 200 years,
      if the current interglacial ends.

      http://www.elOnionBloggle.Blogspot.com

      • People, don’t let the warmistas get off beginning temperature series at 1950. Realist commentors on the UN IPCC AR6 must insist on beginning analyses at 1945. It may not make much difference, but it would be more representative of the actual cyclical nature of temperature trends.

        • At least for US temperatures, better to start the temperature series in 1930, to capture tha real hottest years in the USA, not the adjusted hottest temps.

    • Yes … we NEED the SCOTUS to overturn the “Endangerment Finding” of the EPA. And STOP de-balling ourselves in the name of some FAKE apocalyptic climate “crisis”

      • Getting this to the Supreme Court will be difficult and time consuming. Perhaps an faster path, but not necessarily easier, is to get it the EPA to vacate it on their own. All it should take is to compel those at the EPA who have faith in the IPCC to apply sound scientific principles to justify the IPCC’s ECS that the endangerment finding is based on. They will inevitably fail as all sound scientific principles dispute the IPCC’s ECS rather than support it.

        • Yep … just like I HAD TO DO in college … the EPA needs to “show their work”. STOP hiding their existentially catastrophic sudden climate change … calculations. TRUE Transparency is the sanitation needed.

        • Unfortunately, that would be a band-aid. It could be reversed by the next POTUS or Congress of enviro opportunists; plenty are already chomping at the bit.

          The only durable solution is scrutiny by SCOTUS or the passage of legislation. Either would require unmasking the dubious scientific grounds of the Endangerment Finding.

          • Fixing the science is all that’s required and that would necessarily occur if the EPA was compelled to show their work. The laws of man can not overturn the laws of nature.

          • the law and the science are two different things. It does no good to fix the science if the law remains on the books.

          • John,
            Fixing everything is required, but as a chicken and egg problem, the science needs to be fixed first and the rest will necessarily follow.

            The Endangerment Finding is not a law subject to interpretation by the courts, but a guideline designed to influence and support law related to CO2 emissions. If the EPA is compelled to accept the actual science, rather than the IPCC’s self serving pseudo-science, the only possible result will be to vacate the EF. At that point, the National Climate Assessment Report will become deprecated and any law dependent on either the NCAR or the EF can be challenged and permanently overturned.

        • “is to get it the EPA to vacate it on their own.”

          Not a chance. You see, even if the EPA did that, they’d get sued alleging that they’re ignoring the science and a judge would force them to continue. It’s a funny game… someone uses an executive action to enact something it happens. Someone uses an executive action to repeal something and it’s illegal.

          It’s not only the EPA this applies to.

          • exactly, ever since trump was elected executive actions frequently get blocked by the courts even when they’re simply nullifying previous executive actions.

          • John,

            The Endangerment Finding was not an executive order which is why another executive order can’t overturn it and it must be vacated by the EPA on the basis of testable science which will circumvent any bogus objections coming from alarmists. Once vacated, only then can Mass vs. EPA and other CO2 related court cases be re-litigated.

            No doubt this is a tangled web of unscientific BS established during the Obama administration for the purpose of pushing a political agenda, but if properly and methodically applied, the scientific truth does have the power to unravel it. There’s a narrow path to success and the window of opportunity is rapidly closing, but it’s definitely possible.

            If the current administration doesn’t aggressively commit to correcting the science, it will be the next ice age before there’s another opportunity and we will have wasted trillions of dollars along the way. If eliminating CO2 is actually achieved, then we will have a far larger problem when agriculture inevitably crashes.

          • The Endangerment Finding was not an executive order

            I know, which is why I said “executive actions” and not “executive orders”. EPA is part of the executive branch or government, ergo the finding is an executive action. You can bet the second Trump’s administration attempts to vacate the finding, regardless of the reasons stated including that the science was faulty, the left will take it to a sympathetic judge to get that stopped post hast. While I agree that it eventually needs to go, let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that the science will magically fix it. It’s not an issue of science (never has been) but rather an issue of politics.

          • John,

            The IPCC is so wrong about the science it’s embarrassing. If this message can rise into the public consciousness, the political left will have no choice but to back away from the broken science, or look very foolish. It will only take flipping a few well placed alarmists and I’m sure there are at least a few out there for whom the scientific method still has standing. Without fixing the science, anything Trump does in either term to address the issue will likely get undone and made even worse, especially if a foolish electorate elects an idiot Socialist as President.

            Far too many people are convinced that the IPCC reports defining ‘consensus’ climate science are definitive. This misconception must be corrected which will require a very public beheading of the IPCC and its agenda driven pseudo science. This won’t come from the scientific community since those who are wrong are too powerful while those who are right are too weak. The administration can change this balance by suspending all ‘climate change’ related spending pending a scientific inquisition targeting the IPCC and its self serving ‘consensus’.

        • co2isnotevil January 31, 2019 at 10:44 am
          Getting this to the Supreme Court will be difficult and time consuming. Perhaps an faster path, but not necessarily easier, is to get it the EPA to vacate it on their own.

          Perhaps I misunderstand but, The SC ruled that IF the USEPA has declared CO2 to be a pollutant THEN they can regulate it under the Clean Air Act. They did NOT rule that the “science is settled” and that CO2 actually IS a pollutant.
          So, yes, we need to USEPA to have some real scientist, rather than political “scientist”, take a good hard look at the “Endangerment” Finding.
          (Or, better yet, have Congress clip the wings of all the Bureaucracies they’ve created.)

    • I was struck by this: “requirements such as inspections and tree trimming the utility says could cost billions of dollars and lead to customer rates rising five-fold.”

      The utility is full of (impolite words here). Period.

      Where I live, the electric company comes through all parts of the counties to trim overgrowth and branches away from power lines, without being told to do so. There are trees on local highways – commuter routes – that, if hit by lightning or sever winds, can do enough damage to impede track and damage cars as well as the bigger trucks.

      For PG&E to say ‘it will raise costs’ is not just baloney. It is THEIR problem, and leaves THEM liable for what follows if they refuse to do this. Their response to what the judge said is beyond reprehensible.

      • Paying for tree trimming reduces the cost of repairing lines that are damaged by falling limbs.
        As the man said “You can pay me now, or you can pay him later.”

      • Ironically, PGE gleefully accepted massive extra costs from wildly overpriced green energy contracts motivated by the same special interests that get in the way of clearing forests around transmission lines.

        The costs to inspect and maintain lines in fire prone regions is far less than they claim, which is likely based on being applied to the entire grid. I would bet that what was needed to prevent PGE caused fires would have cost less than what they have spent on virtue signaling.

      • Trimming easements, especially ehrre there are ridiculous green restrictions, is very expensive.
        Im the Houston region we have paid an easement surcharge since hurricane Ike in 2008.

      • And where is THEM going to find the money for this adventure? Between the cushions of THEIR couch?

        Your problem, and the Judges problem is simple. There is no THEM. All of the money can come from only one place — the customers.

        There ain’t nobody here but us chickens.

        • Actually, that is incorrect. PG&E is the supplier and THEY are the riggers of these lines. It is THEIR property, and THEIR carelessness caused these fires, which resulted in enormous destruction and deaths. PG&E (THE THEM) is responsible for their property, and liable for what happened.
          Yes, you could include Moonbeam in it, because he’s the idiot ecohippie who wants everything to be done the “green way”, and I would be quite willing to sue his bony (naughty word here) into the ground for his part in this, if it had happened to me.

          • Only California applies strict negligence to these fires, and then they only apply it to utilities. Other fires have been started by other sources, wheels scraping on the roadway for example, no one would suggest that the couple who caused the Carr Fire are morally, ethically, or legally responsible for the 360 sq miles burned, 8 deaths, and 1.7 billion in damage. Yet somehow PG&E is responsible even if they were not negligent. The problem for PG&E is that their transmission and distribution system now has both present and future liabilities that far exceed its economic value.

          • Only California applies strict negligence to these fires, and then they only apply it to utilities. Other fires have been started by other sources, wheels scraping on the roadway for example, no one would suggest that the couple who caused the Carr Fire are morally, ethically, or legally responsible for the 360 sq miles burned, 8 deaths, and 1.7 billion in damage. Yet somehow PG&E is responsible even if they were not negligent. The problem for PG&E is that their transmission and distribution system now has both present and future liabilities that far exceed its economic value.

          • But the local authorities who chose to ignore warnings from the grand jury ten years ago about the inadequate evacuation routes, continued to allow expansion of the population living in the area despite the warnings, failed to cleanup after the previous fires leaving the area vulnerable to future fires, are held blameless. It’s easy to blame PG&E, there’s no evidence that they’re negligent but they’ve got some money so they get after them. Good luck getting electricity supplied in california if this becomes the norm.
            PG&E asked for permission to update these lines two years ago and got permission to start this summer, that delay wasn’t their fault.

          • Sara – January 31, 2019 at 3:23 pm

            Actually, that is incorrect. PG&E is the supplier and THEY are the riggers of these lines. It is THEIR property, and THEIR carelessness caused these fires,

            Please define “THEIR property, and THEIR carelessness”.

            Railroads and utilities are quite different. Railroads own the property where their railroad tracks are laid ……. but utilities do not own the property where their power lines cross over or where their electric poles are placed. Utilities either lease or purchase a long-term right-of-way or easement from the property owner for placement of their “lines n’ poles”.

            There is NO state or federal Law, …. that I am aware of, ….. that stipulates that “electrical utilities must maintain their right-of-way, ….. plus ten (10) to fifty (50) to each side of said right-of-way, …… free & clear, mowed and/or trimmed ….. of all “burnable” or power disrupting green or dead biomass

            Utilities are not obligated to, …. but do have the right to “trim” or “cut” any green growing biomass from their right-of-way if it endangers their ability to transport electricity, but in most cases, utilities hire private contractors to do said maintenance because it is in their best interest to do so. (Railroads “spray” their right-of-way with “weed killer”.)

            But in Dumocratville, Cal-i-forn-i-a, anything is possible.

          • Thanks, didn’t know this: September 19, 2013 – Item E-4:FERC issues final rule on Generator Requirements at the Transmission Interface Order No. 785 PDF

      • After the Oakland Hills Fire … PG&E became MUCH MORE DILIGENT about sending out DAVY TREE to trim the minimum of branches necessary to clear lines from limbs. But not TOO MUCH trimming for fear of upsetting the Bay Area Tree Huggers. So, behind my home, in a fairly HIGH FIRE HAZARD zone … DAVY TREE stops by EVERY YEAR to trim a few branches out of the lines.

        PG&E has been fairly diligent in sending DAVY TREE to trim throughout HEAVILY POPULATED areas … out in the hinterlands? Not so much.

      • PG&E has always trimmed their power lines. They also take down to a bare dirt a decent sized area under any transformers. They have always faced a lot of hostile home owners who didn’t want a giant swath cut through their property.
        Over the last few years they have greatly stepped up their clearing under power lines and I have often wondered how they could afford what they were already doing considering how many miles of lines they have.
        To my knowledge it has only been this past year that they have also begun shutting down the grid when winds reached dangerous levels. Unfortunately it appears they decided not to on the day the Camp Fire started.
        The problem is this judge is considering ordering them to vastly increase their pruning program at a huge new and costly level, possibly $150 billion. And I suspect a level that many landowners will revolt over, regardless of fire danger.
        And as an aside, to my knowledge, virtually all utility easements include either the explicit or implicit right to maintain the easement, especially for pubic safety.

        • The one they didn’t shut down was a 115kV line which has significant problems associated with shut down. It wasn’t anticipated that those lines would be shut down.

    • Did you take note of that governor Moonbeam?
      ““Global warming is not starting these fires”.
      You are just as complicit as PG&E.

  1. Cue up the media and politicians who will be castigating Judge Alsup for his statement that “Global warming is not starting these fires”.

    • Or the bleating insistence about the invisible “contribution” of [global warming/climate change].

  2. This is the same judge who put the kibosh on the California cities trying to sue the oil companies for global warming. That makes him worth listening to, in my book.

    • Judge Alsup has become the Judith Curry of Climate litigation. He investigated it for himself, instead of just trusting the arguments from Authority.

      And once you’ve looked deeply into the Climate Faithful’s claims and found just how shaky or even fake their evidence is, you’ll never go back to believing them again.

      ~¿~

    • markl: Quite right. PGE may have sparked the fires, however, poor forest management provided the tinder.

      • There’s a very good chance that those details will come out in the proceedings. Though they’ll be buried within 300 pages of other stuff.

  3. Global warming *policy* might have caused these fires, in that PG&E had to divert funds to doing renewable energy vs. working on safety. I wonder.

    • The Camp Fire, the big one, was on national forest lands, not state owned lands.

      Not sure that the Governor manages forests anyway. It’s not a typical governor’s job.

        • Indeed. and the governor is responsible for his administrations policies (or lack there of), which includes the policies on forest management

          • CARB effectively ended the ability to perform control burns. This applies to the whole of California including federal forests.

        • The unincorporated town of Pulga is surrounded by the Mendocino NF, but it’s obviously on private land, with state property nearby as well. I don’t know if the initial ignition point was on federal land or not.

      • And National Forests are run by Federal judges. Maybe this one was screaming at PG&E to cover for his colleagues who are the real villains.

  4. Ouch, that burns! ….to the tune of about $50 billion in federal funding based on Super Storm Sandy-style political games that might have been played otherwise.

  5. So then … PG&E has deeper pockets than “Global Warming”. That’s all the lefty-judge Alsup is saying … is that the RATEPAYERS and TAXPAYERS of the State of CA will PAYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!

    Welcome to the Marxist 9th District Court of Appeals

    • Actually, I believe the judge has the power to make the equity stakeholders in PG&E pay. Maybe one of our lawyers could elucidate?

      • And then… WHO will provide the Energy needs of N.Californians? Ohhhhhh yeah … CRUSH PG&E and then put the CA Air Resources Board in charge of Energy generation. What do you think the GOVERNMENT is going to do with your “smart meters”. Yep. FREEZE and SWELTER you out, and ROB $$$$ you blind.

      • I’ve heard of cases where a judge orders a company to create new shares of stock, sell those stock, then use the proceeds of the sale to pay the settlement. More shares in circulation decreases the value of pre-existing shares.

    • Perhaps that is what it will take to disavow the citizens of California who have voted for these policies to actually experience the consequences before sanity can be restored.

    • I think you may have read more into the Judge’s statements than is there. He is just saying that Global Warming had nothing to do with these fires, which is correct. He is also pointing out that PG&E are in violation of a previous court order. Neither statement seems particularly “lefty” or “Marxist” to me. Perhaps it would be better to wait to see how he finally decides on this and issues his orders instead of going off half-cocked this early in the proceedings. This is like predicting the outcome of a the Superbowl based on the results of the coin-toss.

      • “The Judge spent three hours excoriating PG&E.”
        Any lawyer defending a client would ask that he withdraw – obvious bias. Fodder for the opposition….. (Damn it!)

  6. It was a silly remark by the judge to say that “global warming did not start those fires”. He may as well have said “space aliens did not start those fires”.

    • Oh, Bruce; get a grip: The State of California, a Fourth National Climate Assessment (Federal government), and every bleating journalist has blamed all recent CA wildfires on global warming.

      Because of his prior particular knowledge, Judge Alsup was able to make that off-the-cuff remark.

      • Because of his prior particular knowledge, Judge Alsup was able to make that off-the-cuff remark.

        I wonder if PG&E made reference to global warming being responsible in one of their filings.

        • As evidenced by his treatment of CA cities’ celebrity lawyer, Judge Alsup has a short temper when dealing with smarmy, half-truthful legal crap. Maybe PG&E did make the mistake of bring up global warming.

          Greg, thanks for not using ‘climate change’ in your posting. We should all follow that practice.

      • No, you need to read more carefully. The judge specifically referred to how the fires got started. Warmunists blame “global warming” for the severity of the fire, which of course is also wrong.

  7. When I fly across Florida, transmission lines seem to run in wide clear-cut swaths; a tower falling over would not hit a tree. Of course, California. I hope Calpers is heavily invested in PG&E. Otherwise, they’ll have no friends at all. I imagine investors all over have a piece in the ‘safe’, income-centric mutual funds and ETF’s that invest in regulated utilities. Not so much, when the assets are a piggy bank for voracious legislators, and the regulation is increasingly ideological. This is not say there was no PG&E liability of ot’s equipment was faulty, but it is hardly the master of its fate; I doubt the regulators heeded warnings and requests for funds and unless a judge has big brass ones their role will be swept far under the rug.

    • Major high-tension lines run in clear-cut swaths. Low-tension distribution lines do not. It would be impossibly expensive and require clear-cutting huge areas. Generally only branches quite close to the lines are pruned back. This decreases the risk of damage and arcing, but does not eliminate it. To eliminate it all trees out to one tree-heighth and then some (wind!) on both sides of the line must be cut down.

      And to make things worse, the increased light in this swath will cause a massive sprouting of new trees, so the swath has to be re-cut at fairly short intervals. In the long run ground underground lines are often cheaper, though this might not be true in a slide- and quake-prone area like California.’

        • Short distances lower voltages (distribution) underground is easy. Higher voltages long distances it quickly becomes impractical. Some reasons similar as to why ants can’t be scaled up to be tiger sized. Burial of high voltages involve vaults and trenching with big environmental concerns in cross country applications. Phil points out a 20 mile limit, electrical properties around capacitance of the underground lines create challenges. And on,,, fire risk benefits cant sway much.

          • 20 miles, ….. that’s great ……. because Manhattan Island, NY, is only 13.4 miles in length. 😊 😊

    • Apparently, PG&E’s no longer contains the CA credit card. Despite massively increasing its lobbying expenditures, CA politicians are running away in droves.

      • You seem to be surprised that a company that exists at the whim of the legislature invests heavily in the legislature.

        • Its fun to ask people: Who is your customer?

          Just laugh at anyone who says PG&E’s customers are the people receiving PG&E’s electric service and paying the PG&E bill. PG&E’s ‘customers’ are the politicians, especially CA State-level, with some obsequence shown to Federal regulators.

          • Thanks Dave, lot’s of people don’t understand that PG&E fortunes rise on fall at the whim of the regulators. That’s why they don’t dare offend those regulators when they are required to purchase worthless wind and solar at higher than market prices. In the final analysis the regulators are subject to the whim of the voters. Here in Disneyland that means they have to do lots of stupid green stuff…and we all end up paying for it.

          • In many State jurisdictions, municipal electric utilities and electric power cooperatives are not regulated by State PUCs.

            Some of those utilities are very well run and have reliable and cost-effective electric services.

          • Particularly true of electric cooperatives. Boards of Trustees MUST be members (customers) of the cooperative. They are single purposed entity generally charged with providing affordable and reliable power to their members. Generally have the highest customer satisfaction scores in the industry.

          • Regulators are key players with a big responsibility. Wrote this in 2014 on Judith Currys blog. Seems on target now.

            Myth 6 – Consumers are protected by their public service commissions and other regulatory bodies. Some commissioners (or other regulatory enforcers) are political appointees and some are elected. In theory they oversee the utility and look out for the consumers. They generally have broad powers and can determine critical items such as rate of return, capital inclusion, rate increases and cost recovery. Many commissioners and regulators lack training and expertise and believe that protecting consumers from CO2 emissions can be done more cheaply than possible or that it is more important than their traditional responsibility of ensuring that the utility provide economic and reliable power. I’m afraid that contrary to the design, in far too many cases utilities are trying to look out for their customers and protect them from their commissioners.

            Political pressures exist for all power suppliers, but for brevity I will focus on Investor Owned Utilities (IOU’s) to describe the workings of power supply planning. An IOU’s primary goal is to earn a rate of return for their investors, their secondary concern is providing economic and reliable power. All things equal Utilities seek to do both. However Utilities focused on providing reliable and economic power to their consumers can find themselves under significant pressure from their green regulators. Their decisions are criticized (with hindsight) and cost recovery and rate of return decisions can be very punitive. Utilities pursuing green programs that satisfy their commissioners can be well rewarded regardless of the bottom line cost on consumers. Political oversight based on cost recovery makes it so a utility might prefer a more costly less effective program that harms their consumers but is rewarded by the legislators.

            Many small renewable projects have been undertaken for the purpose of relationship enhancements with regulators. Regulators have huge power to cripple or reward utilities. Politics impact utility resource decision making and it is generally biased towards (not away) from renewables and there is little incentive to negatively evaluate much less publicize the shortcomings of such programs once they are undertaken. Speaking honestly and truthfully to regulators and other stakeholders can easily be re-interpreted by them as the utility being anti-renewables, inflexible and protectionist. Worst case as noted they can find some of your decisions imprudent and not allow cost recovery.

            My comments above should not be taken to imply that I believe that Planners or Utilities deliberately undertake significant projects to the detriment of their consumers in order to gain benefits from their regulators. I believe it is a much more subtle process. Utilities are criticized and chastised for not embracing renewables and face additional scrutiny and demands which hurt their bottom line. Over time with pressure study assumptions begin to fall in line more with those of the regulators. Perhaps against better judgment – alternative technologies are credited with higher performance, lower maintenance and/or greater longevity than is warranted. Existing technology does not receive similar benefits and may be penalized. Fuel prices for conventional technology are projected to steeply escalate. High compliance costs are associated with conventional technology. Extra costs to the transmission system associated with intermittent resources are ignored or minimized. The strategic value of experience with new technology is given a high value. Individually most any of these study decisions may be reasonable; collectively they skew the results tremendously. Planners who buy into the benefits of renewables are more likely to participate in forums with environmental groups, industry renewable task forces, and PR opportunities because it matches their perspectives and their presence helps the utilities image.

          • PE, I agree wholly. Also, anytime government or business goes off on save the globe and social justice, things go to hell. Been there, done that and got the T-shirt.

          • Planning Engineer is completely correct. One additional note is that only a third or a fourth of PG&E’s customer bill payment goes to PG&E. That small fraction of the collected money is what pays for maintenance, new construction, and payout for interest on bonds and short term loans for power purchase every year. The remainder pays for the power PG&E must buy for their customers but most, however, is taxes and fees collected as required for federal, state, county, and city governments. PG&E does not get a cut of that money. It just gets blamed for the high rates.

  8. Re-route the gold-plated high speed rail line from nowhere to Paradise so people can get out quickly. Boarding the train and checking tickets might still be tricky though.

  9. Can someone with legal expertise elaborate on the concept of PG&E being on federal probation? What does violating probation mean, what are the consequences, and for whom? I tried the google route but found it confusing. Thanks in advance from a non-US reader.

  10. requirements such as inspections and tree trimming the utility says could cost billions of dollars and lead to customer rates rising five-fold

    the cost of tree-trimming is a preventive measure that most utilities take on without being told to do so without excessively jacking up customers rates. Because as expensive as it is to trim trees, it’s cheaper than repairing the damage trees can cause (physically to the lines and equipment, reputationally with the customers whose power is out for days due to lines downed by fallen tree-limbs in the wake of a storm, and legally – as PG&E are finding out first hand – with the lawsuits in the wake of resulting fires).

  11. “requirements such as inspections and tree trimming the utility says could cost billions of dollars and lead to customer rates rising five-fold”

    This is such exaggerated nonsense. Its seems they have never even thought about doing this and costed it properly. Since devastating bushfires in my part of the world (also initiated by powerlines) it is a common sight to see contractors clearing back 3 or 4 metres from powerlines, lines have been upgraded where needed and fast disconnect infrastructure put in where needed. Nobodys rates have gone up five fold or anything like it.

  12. People know the forest fire risk in California so they share some of the blame. Just like I would blame myself for walking in a bad neighborhood at night and getting mugged, I know the risks. The fire could just as easily be started by homeless people or a terrorist.

    • Actually, Steve, if only people living in those areas would accept occasional loss-of-service when weather conditions cause PG&E to disconnect offending lines, one would have a partial solution. I remember reading that some PG&E operations people proposed that prior to the fires, but it was deemed impractical(?).

      • Agreed. People are trying to put the blame on the company when in reality the people get the government they elected and should be held accountable for who they elect.

      • The issue in question was actually not the ability to kill power to areas subject to immediate possible fires. It was one of how to rearrange the existing electric distribution system or provide emergency power to critical facilities such as hospitals, fire department, police stations and such. Even more of a problem are the households with residents with medical problems requiring uninterrupted power. Coverage for those households is currently defined by the state as provided with ambulance transport to hospitals on a case-by-case basis. (Only a small fraction of those household have or can afford household generators.)

        Flip the switch to drop power to a fire prone area is easy. Bring it back on can be time consuming as it often will require each line segment to be brought up one at a time to minimize inrush problems at a minimum. If serious winds or earthquake has occurred, each segment must be individually inspected for possible fire ignition potential.

        So.. Yep, power can be cut very easily. A decision to do so is far from casual. Until recently, Gov Davis’s rule from the 2000 PG&E bankruptcy made it a criminal action to kill power to an area (rolling blackouts) unless for prearranged maintenance even if PG&E did not have any money to buy the power.

    • Steve, the Climate Judge can’t be bought. But some of his (political) acolytes are bought with the SJW nonsense.

  13. Seems to me the judge going well beyond his responsibilities to oversee PG&E’s probation from the 2010 pipeline explosion when he mandates tree trimming near overhead lines. The two things aren’t related. If I’m wrong about the judge’s scope of responsibility, he should have mandated tree trimming years ago.

    • What brought it into the judges scope was that PG&E was put on “probation” over the pipeline explosion. Starting fires was deemed a violation of probation, just as when a criminal who was on probation for theft is brought before the judge for being caught associating with other known criminals or missing a meeting with his court appointed social worker (acts that are considered probation violations even though they are different acts to what they were originally arrested for).

  14. The Paradise fire would likely not have happened if they had kept the chaparral beneath the distribution lines burned off. Or grazed by goats.

  15. “No one responsible for overseeing PG&E can answer these two basic questions: What is the true state of the company’s finances? And did the utility really need to file for bankruptcy, or is the move merely a ploy to take the steam out of wildfire-related lawsuits and get out of unfavorable green-energy contracts?” The Mercury News

    Unfavorable green-energy contracts likely cheered on by this same newspaper. What’s the old saying ‘success has a thousand fathers while failure is an orphan’

  16. The core business of an electric utility used to be described as providing economic and reliable power. It evolved to be economic, safe and reliable and then morphed to safe, economic and publicly/socially responsible manner. The key was always in balancing those priorities. With PG&E fears of CO2 emissions gained such weighting that reliability, economics and safety got out of whack.

    PG&E through renewable contracts and other practices jeopardized economics. Bad economics called for cuts impacting reliability and safety. Fighting the future villain of climate concerns as a main priority led to various real present threats and dangers.

    It wasn’t just renewable programs. For example the smartgrid push was part of misplaced priorities as well – https://www.tdworld.com/smart-grid/third-world-grid-smartgrid-or-smart-grid

  17. For some years, PG&E has been playing cozy with the environmentalists. As long as they can get their fanciful expenses to suit them into the rate base, they could care less about the customer. The environmental movement, however, is a Medusa head of many snakes. Some are keen on climate change, some don’t want you to clear cut under power lines, others don’t want you to bury anything underground, etc., etc., etc. You either fight the Medusa or you lose. Them that think they can live with it are fools….

  18. When it suits . . .
    Alsup recently declared Phil Jones (CRU East Anglia) a genius.
    Alsup has the ability to understand ‘global warming’ but he won’t give too much thought or time to studying all the data because it contradicts the left’s dogma.

    • commieBob. Enron came to mind for me also. The Wikipedia version of events makes deregulation and corporate “manipulation” the primary causes of the power crisis. Not necessarily. Way to much government forcing: Requiring the tradition utilities to sell their generating capacity and then in turn being required to buy electricity back from those buyers isn’t exactly allowing the “invisible hand of the market place” full function. Deregulation has worked well elsewhere but here in Disneyland it failed horribly. Blame the regulator for creating an unworkable market, not the corporations for doing what they’re supposed to do: make money for their investors. Rest assured that now that we have $billions more of worthless wind and solar and $ billions less of reliable nuclear in the mix – the next “solution” will be much worse (more expensive and less reliable). Having a greener governor and legislature this time around may have a contributing effect….

      • “now that we have $billions more of worthless wind and solar and $ billions less of reliable nuclear”

        Typical highly generalised statement emanating out of the US sceptic community. This is supposed to be a science-based site that avoids B.S. like this.

      • I don’t understand what happened very well. Is this an ongoing fiasco? Is this two separate things both of which happened in California?

        It is very tempting to think the regulators in California had a big part in creating the necessary conditions for the whole thing. It looks like the problem was national in scope though. link What now comes to mind is Solyndra Oh my aching brain.

  19. PG&E stock was $48/share last December, now it’s $13/share. PG&E bonds are now junk rated. Once that $ gets wiped out electric rates will soar to a non politically acceptable price. The Legislature will then rob the general fund to cushion the blow (and raise taxes). The renewable mandates and renewable grid priority will stay in-place and PG&E will still be required to purchase all the available wind and solar power (but at a post bankruptcy court ordered reduced price) even when it’s produced at the wrong time of day and they can’t use. They will have to dump it to Arizona (as usual) at a price much lower than what they are required by law to pay the renewable companies. Isn’t being Green wonderful? Germany ruined their tradition utilities with subsidized, mandated, grid priority renewable policies. California and most other USA states are following that same sterling business model. Why? Because wind and sunshine are free!!

    • Hey don’t forget South Australia in the pecking order or we’ll think you’re culturally ignorant here.

      Speaking of things going up in smoke it was the demise of our State Bank that ultimately led to the sell-off of the Electricity Trust of South Australia and the privatisation of electricity supply. The villain of the piece was one Marcus Clark although he was appointed by the Bannon Labor Govt to get a bit more entrepreneurial with the little people’s savings no doubt to pay more dividends for the usual taxeaters-
      https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-24/former-state-bank-director-tim-marcus-clark-dies/7110278

      So with that sort of debt hanging over State coffers it was left to the incoming Liberal Govt to flog off the family silver although there was another nuance to it. Publicly run ETSA like the Engineering and Water Supply largely had capital works sweated for and paid for by returning war time 1920s baby boomers who went without much to provide these modern joys of life. However their voluminous offspring would take it all for granted and in the early 70s grow the public service and its largesse exponentially and it was the dividends of their parents they were squandering without putting away for depreciation of those assets.

      So with the planets aligning in SA it was an easy decision to sell off ETSA to ameliorate the State Bank debt and to privatise the E&Ws for SAWater later, particularly given the largesse the public sector was enjoying by then. If you think ahh but SA was in a debt crisis which explains that then it was exactly the same with many publicly owned assets in other States and even the Feds with Snowy Hydro built and paid for by a more industrious generation in record time and on budget (compare that with today’s infrastructure projects). Basically the taxeaters had found another cash cow to fund their burgeoning peccadillos but alas that small matter of depreciable assets was ticking away. No matter as private enterprise could become the bearer of bad tidings with rapidly rising bills to eventually pay the piper.

      So that’s the story here and now and you can see how watermelons take the slant they do with it that it’s Big Biz screwing the little guy when there had to be a catch up with the poles and wires although with separation of that from the private generators naturally some gold plating went on. Also with bushfire liability and compensation like the tragic Victorian Bushfires there was even more impetus for that.

      Defenders of the cost of unreliables will point out that 42% of the dramatic rise in power prices is down to poles and wires and not their precious wind and solar. However locked up in that fixed cost is the extra transmission lines to large scale wind and solar farms as well as the frequency and voltage control equipment necessary for so many disperse generators and nobody does the sums on it. Some questions you simply don’t ask because there’s ugly answers.

      Nevertheless with fickle solar and wind dumping whatever they can whenever they can into the grid the large scale coal generators are now being run on stickytape and string to extract the last drop of revenue out of them before they close one by one depending on age. That largely leaves the field to expensive gas peaking plants and now paying big industrial users to shut down in peak summer. Slowly but surely wind and solar are being exposed for what they are and it’s anyone’s guess as to what battery backup would cost to level the playing field but you can only blame Big Biz for so long before the obvious sinks in.

      The thought of todays bloated public servants taking it all over and back to the good old days with cheap power again is laughable. As for the promise of either public or private owners extracting cheap reliable power from Gaia even more so. Simply put you can have somewhat cheap and fickle renewables power or dispatchable and extremely expensive contrary to the popular mantra. It’s the same gullibility that believes penalising poles and wires providers for not gold plating enough with events like bushfires isn’t ultimately a zero sum game for consumers.

  20. Electric rates are going to rise 5-fold?! The top tier is already 30 cents per kWh, and the amount of usage to get to that tier is ridiculously low. We haven’t run the electric heaters even once for over a year, we have a 2 year old high-efficiency refrigerator, we use gas to heat the hot water, we have all LED lights (9 watts per bulb), we haven’t turned on the TV in years, we don’t use the dishwasher, our clothes washer and dryer are new high-efficiency units, and our computers are all efficient laptops and tablets… and we regularly hit that top tier.

    At $1.50/kWh, people (and businesses) will be fleeing California in even bigger droves.

    PG&E deferred maintenance of their medium voltage lines (they were cited by CPUC regulators for deferred maintenance more than any other utility in the state… 3527 deferred maintenance items in 2015 (latest audit), 9520 deferred maintenance items in 2013… while they claimed it didn’t reflect their deferring maintenance, just that they were working hard to catch up on a ‘backlog’ of maintenance… which is the DEFINITION of deferred maintenance!) while they spent $10,550,000 on lobbying in 2018, then attempted to blame the Paradise fire on global warming. And now they (and their political buttbuddies) want the ratepayers to pay for their criminal behavior. Sickening.

    • Wind Turbine Power Quality Issues
      Utility companies shouldn’t be penalized when they are forced by political mandates to contend with “off spec” poor quality 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?

      Wind power causes problems with:
      Voltage regulation (magnitude and frequency)
      Voltage sags and swells
      Harmonics and inter harmonics
      Real and reactive power
      Sub synchronous resonance issues due to interaction of the electric network
      and the complex shaft/gear system of the wind turbine.

    • Ivan: “AGW leading to extreme temperatures….”what was that you were saying about general statements….OK if from the alarmist community maybe?

      • Dennis – what is it that you don’t get about the word ‘extreme’?

        Temperatures have hit 47C (117F) in southern Australia where an extraordinary heatwave has come amid one of the worst droughts in the country’s recorded history. In large parts of the Murray-Darling basin – an area of land the size of Egypt – little rain is expected for months. Fish are dying in their hundreds of thousands at Menindee and people living in towns and on properties along the Barwon-Darling river system are battling to secure water fit for drinking and washing and to feed their stock.

        • Ivan what don’t you get about *HISTORY*. “extreme” weather events happen. They always have, they always will. Just look through history and you’ll find plenty of examples of “extreme” weather events of the past.

          heatwaves – happened before, will happen again.
          droughts – happened before, will happen again.
          heatwaves during droughts – happened before, will happen again.

        • Ivan: Hey you’re right it is extreme. Nice that. you’ve moved on from global warming and climate change. But the fossil fuels must have had more CO2 in 1902: According to The Guardian, the farmers in the affected region of central and western New South Wales continue to battle a crippling drought that many locals are calling the worst since 1902. /save

    • Anything that is different than it was yesterday is caused by CO2.
      Anyone who says otherwise is an anti-scientific denier.

  21. “There is one clear pattern here: PG&E is starting these fires. Global warming is not starting these fires.”

    That quote from Alsup was omitted from our local newspaper, and instead stated mantra, “…climate scientists are in general agreement that climate change is…” (the usual blah, blah, blah).

  22. “Perhaps that is what it will take to disavow the citizens of California who have voted for these policies to actually experience the consequences before sanity can be restored.”

    Exactly… energy costs will skyrocket when PG&E has to maintain equipment and cut trees? Good. We’ll see just how far California will go in it’s love of “saving the world.” After all, another rate hike is a small price to pay to save the world, right?

  23. One option for California is for their state government to acquire all the assets of the privately held utilities in the state and then to either assume direct responsibility for all day-to-day utility operations, or else to subcontract those day-to-day operations to some combination of publicly-held and privately-held corporations in a GOCO type of contracting arrangement.

    The other question which now arises concerns whether or not the foolish decision to close Diablo Canyon by 2025 will stand firm under the pressure of these Category 5 political/legal hurricane force winds.

    My prediction is that the decision to close Diablo Canyon will stand firm, simply for the reason that reversing course would constitute an admission by state authorities that their ambitious plans for a carbon-free power grid can’t be fulfilled without a strong commitment to nuclear.

  24. Beta: Well said, Diablo has the same chance as Germany’s nukes – none. Liberal think disease is the same worldwide. Wrong everytime, everywhere. Germany appears to be the only place with worse energy management than Cali but we’re catching up…..Quickly.

    • Dennis, I suspect that over the next twenty to thirty years, substantial profit making opportunities will be developing in Europe for suppliers and operators of LNG-fired and gas-fired peaker plants, and also for those nations which choose to invest in the small modular reactors (SMR’s).

      A nuclear free, coal free Germany might become an excellent power marketing opportunity for nations such as Poland and Slovakia who are considering an expansion of nuclear power inside their borders.

      NuScale is well on the way towards getting its 50 Mw SMR design approved by the NRC. With support from the Department of Energy, from Fluor, and a from a consortium of Utah power companies, NuScale will be constructing a full scale first-of-fleet demonstration plant in eastern Idaho.

      Ten or twelve of these 50 Mw NuScale SMR’s will eventually be ganged together at the Idaho site to create a 600 Mw power generation facility.

      The advantage of the NuScale design is that the SMR units can do load following, they can support an isolated grid, the individual SMR units can be refueled while others located on the same site are still in operation, they can’t melt down, and they can be black started without outside assistance from the grid.

      The SMR’s have the additional advantage that one can start out installing just a few SMR units to fulfill the initial demand. You don’t need to install another 50 Mw unit on the same site unless and until customer power demand for the added output is firm enough to justify the incremental investment.

      Once their own reactors have been shuttered, neither Germany nor California will ever again allow a nuclear reactor to be constructed on their soil. Both Germany and California will eventually be forced to install LNG or gas-fired backup generation to keep their wind and solar grids from collapsing.

      But that doesn’t mean surrounding nations in the case of Germany, or private investors working in adjacent states in the case of California, wouldn’t consider buying NuScale’s SMR’s and then selling the nuclear generated power at a premium price.

  25. Beta, I’ve followed NuScale for years and agree that it has tremendous potential. I like your idea about power investment opportunities in Poland. They appear to be positioned to go from coal to nukes without the interim hopeless renewable folly. I’ve read that Germany has commercially available shale deposits but that they have no interest in developing them. Let’s hope we can sell them some LNG! I love it here in Cali but it’s a shame that my power bill will almost certainly double over the next several years. Can you see any chance that I’m wrong about that?

    • Dennis, I couldn’t predict with any precision just how much California’s power bills will rise over the next four or five years.

      But I would observe that aggressive efforts at energy conservation are a necessity if a firm decision has been made by California’s politicians to move quickly towards wind and solar and to eliminate nuclear altogether.

      Raising the price of electricity to almost unaffordable levels is one way to guarantee that strict energy conservation measures will be practiced everywhere in California.

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