Judge rips PG&E for ghastly safety record leading to fires

A U.S. judge ripped into Pacific Gas & Electric on Wednesday, saying its executives have put greed before safety and telling the utility that has been blamed for huge California wildfires in recent years that it should plan to have at least 1,100 more tree trimmers to reduce the chances of causing even more devastation.

“I am going to do everything I can to protect this state from more death and destruction from this convicted felon," Alsup said of PG&E.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup delivered his harsh rebuke of the nation's largest utility during a court hearing to review how well PG&E has complied with the terms of a five-year criminal probation imposed after its natural gas lines blew up a San Francisco Bay Area neighborhood and killed eight people in 2010. The utility was convicted of six felony counts of falsifying records and safety violations in 2016.

Alsup blasted PG&E for its abysmal track record since its probation began in January 2017. In that time, PG&E's aging power lines have been blamed for igniting a series of catastrophic wildfires that killed nearly 130 people and destroyed thousands of homes.

The aftermath saddled PG&E with more than $50 billion in potential liabilities, driving the San Francisco company into bankruptcy 13 months ago.

The judge told PG&E he believes the fires could have been prevented had it upgraded and maintained its electrical system instead of funneling billions of dollars into shareholder dividends and executive bonuses.

“PG&E neglected the maintenance, it's quite clear, even though they won't admit it," Alsup said.