PG&E Corp. was accused of putting its “reputation above public safety” in a lawsuit that says the power company spends too much on advertising and not enough on preventing devastating Northern California wildfires like the blaze that destroyed the town of Paradise last month.
While the cause the Camp Fire remains undetermined, residents alleged in a complaint filed Monday that the utility’s “dysfunctional risk assessment methodologies” have failed to improve even after fires in Calaveras County in 2015 and in wine country north of San Francisco last year were linked by investigators to PG&E’s equipment.
The Camp Fire, the deadliest and most destructive in California history, has put the company under intense scrutiny. Residents who lost loved ones and homes have filed lawsuits blaming its power lines for starting the fire.
The utility is aware of lawsuits regarding the Camp Fire and considers safety to be its highest priority, a spokeswoman said.
“Right now, our focus is on assessing infrastructure, safely restoring power where possible, and helping our customers recover and rebuild,” Lynsey Paulo said in an email.
The plaintiffs contend PG&E should focus on upgrading infrastructure and revamping vegetation management and they want a court order blocking company officials from spending profits on advertising to promote a “false and misleading picture of safety surrounding their operations.” The residents are seeking to recover all money the utility spent on advertising since Sept. 9, 2010, when an explosion of a PG&E natural gas pipeline killed eight people in a city south of San Francisco.
The allegations in the suit range from negligence and public nuisance to violations of California’s business and professions code.
The case is Williams v. Pacific Gas & Electric Co., 18CV03993, California Superior Court, Butte County.
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