A Judge Wants Answers After PG&E Admitted Killing 84 People

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(Bloomberg) -- PG&E Corp. was ordered by the federal judge overseeing its criminal probation to respond to all allegations in a state prosecutor’s report on the utility’s failure to prevent the deadliest fire in California history.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup directed the company to file a public statement identifying anything in the report that it denies as untrue. The report was disclosed Tuesday by Butte County District Attorney Michael Ramsey after PG&E pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of unlawfully causing a fire.

In his scathing 92-page report, the prosecutor found that PG&E ignored repeated warnings about the age and vulnerability of nearly century-old power equipment that failed and caused the deadly Camp Fire that destroyed the town of Paradise.

PG&E put residents in danger by skimping for decades on the costs of inspecting and maintaining the high-voltage line that broke so it could maximize profits, the report said. Ramsey also faulted the company for poor-record keeping and hiring workers who weren’t qualified to determine whether its aging grid was safe.

PG&E showed a “callous disregard for the safety and property of the citizens of Butte County,” the report said.

The company said it’s reviewing Alsup’s order and will respond in court.

“We share the court’s focus on safety and recognize that we must take a leading role in preventing wildfires,” PG&E said in a statement.

Alsup oversees the bankrupt company’s probation stemming from a conviction for safety violations after a fatal gas-pipeline explosion in 2010.

The judge said earlier this year that the utility was violating its probation by falling behind on wildfire safety maintenance. At a hearing in May, he criticized PG&E for resisting his demands that it adopt stricter safety measures.

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