Custom Search
CivicLifeSportsSchoolsBusinessFoodOur HomesLetters/OpinionsCalendar

Published February 3rd, 2021
MOFD and PG&E avoid litigation, settle company lawsuit
Photo Nick Marnell

The Moraga-Orinda Fire District and the Pacific Gas and Electric Company avoided litigation by settling a lawsuit brought by the company over safety restrictions placed upon PG&E by a 2020 fire district ordinance.
In October, MOFD enacted an ordinance requiring electric utilities to notify the district at least 48 hours in advance of deploying a safety and infrastructure protection team within MOFD jurisdiction, and banning scheduled, high risk non-emergency work in high fire areas when the National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for the work area. The ordinance authorized fines of up to $1,300 for each violation.
"The work could lead to an ignition and cause a wildfire to start," Fire Chief Dave Winnacker told his board in October. "If PG&E determines that this work merits deployment of an SIPT, the district believes it should be informed of that fact."
PG&E sued the fire district, seeking to invalidate the ordinance as the company believed the district exceeded its authority by attempting to regulate matters that fall under the jurisdiction of the California Public Utilities Commission.
"These requirements interfere with PG&E's ability to respond flexibly to changing conditions in order to protect public safety," the company stated in its complaint, filed Dec. 18. The company also maintains that its SIPTs are not first responders but utility workers whose primary role is to support PG&E work activities and support fire prevention at PG&E worksites.
Neither the fire district nor the company had the appetite for litigation, and the parties negotiated acceptable modifications to the ordinance. A revised district ordinance was passed unanimously by the MOFD board and enacted Jan. 22.
The negotiated revisions include changing the requirement of a 48-hour notice for SIPT deployment to no later than 9 a.m. on the day of deployment. The revised ordinance also changes the definition of an SIPT so that the ordinance does not apply to a company's normal utility crews, and bans only scheduled, non-emergency electrical work within the district during Red Flag warnings.
"PG&E appreciates that districts responsible for local fire response are concerned about the challenges of fire prevention and seek up-to-date information. PG&E would like to cooperate with those districts as we all have the desire and responsibility to mitigate fires," said Matt Nauman, PG&E spokesman.
"However, PG&E also has CPUC-jurisdictional obligations to maintain the electrical grid. PG&E needs to maintain flexibility in deploying electrical crews in order to effectively and efficiently keep the power flowing across Northern and Central California. PG&E and Moraga-Orinda were able to reach agreement on notification procedures that address the fire district's desire for information while limiting restrictions on PG&E's ability to deploy electrical crews."
PG&E filed a request with Superior Court the last week of January to dismiss its lawsuit against the fire district.

print story

Before you print this article, please remember that it will remain in our archive for you to visit anytime.
download pdf
(use the pdf document for best printing results!)
Send your comment to:
Reach the reporter at:

This article was published on Page A8:

Quick Links for LamorindaWeekly.com
send artwork to:
Classified ads
Lamorinda Service Directory
About us and How to Contact us
Letter to the Editor
Send stories or ideas to:
Send sports stories and photos to:
Subscribe to receive a delivered or mailed copy
Subscribe to receive storylinks by email
Our Homes
Copyright Lamorinda Weekly, Moraga CA