Judge: PG&E put profits over wildfire safety

A U.S. judge berated Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. accusing the nation's largest utility of enriching shareholders instead of clearing trees that can fall on its power lines and start fires and making "excuses" to avoid turning off electricity when fire risk is high.

Judge William Alsup in San Francisco didn’t immediately order PG&E to take any of the dramatic measures he has proposed to try to stop more wildfires.

But he warned that he wasn’t ruling out at least some new requirements on the company if it didn’t come up with a plan to "solve" the problem of catastrophic wildfires in California.

Alsup is overseeing a criminal conviction against PG&E on pipeline safety charges stemming from a 2010 gas line explosion in the San Francisco Bay Area that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.

He proposed earlier this month as part of PG&E's probation that it remove or trim all trees that could fall onto its power lines in high-wind conditions and shut off power when fire is a risk regardless of the inconvenience to customers or loss of profit.

Dawn Kamber