If PG&E is found responsible for November 2018’s Camp Fire in Paradise, CA, they could face murder or manslaughter charges. Should the state’s largest utility company be held accountable for this disaster?
An amicus brief (a document that is filed in a court by someone who is not directly related to the case) was filed in US District Court on December 30, 2018 by a California attorney who claims that PG&E should be held responsible for failing to clear vegetation around their power lines. The extent of the penalty that PG&E may face could range from a minor misdemeanor to “homicide offenses like implied-malice murder and involuntary manslaughter.”
Presently, the attorney general hasn’t named PG&E as the cause of the Camp Fire, but even PG&E has acknowledged that there was “an outage” on a transmission line near to where the blaze began. They also reported other downed power lines in close proximity to where the fire began.
Should PG&E Face Criminal Charges?
If PG&E is found to blame for starting the fire, is a charge of manslaughter too harsh a punishment? Consider PG&E’s recent history:
- 2010 – PG&E is responsible for a pipeline explosion in San Bruno that killed 8 people and injured 50
- PG&E was found to have caused 17 fires in 2017 alone. According to CNN, “Investigators determined that in 11 cases the company violated codes regarding brush clearance or related violations and referred the matters to prosecutors. No charges have been filed against PG&E in relation to the violations.”
- In the Camp Fire, 88 people have been reported dead, 14,000 homes were destroyed, and 153,000 acres were burned.
- PG&E’s CEO made $8.5 million in 2017 and the company paid another $8 million lobbying lawmakers in Sacramento for the chance to pass their debts onto customers.
Clearly being put on probation for over six years and being fined over $1.6 billion hasn’t scared PG&E enough to put the proper safety measures in place. Hopefully facing criminal charges will bring about the change that Californians need to be protected from faulty electrical equipment.