A Contra Costa County Superior Court judge dismissed a PG&E lawsuit against the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District that sought to overturn district restrictions on its work and safety procedures.
PG&E’s lawsuit aimed to invalidate fire district Ordinance No. 35, which prohibits an electric utility from performing non-emergency electrical work within district boundaries without 48 hours’ notice. The ordinance also prohibits a utility from deploying safety and infrastructure teams inside the district without notice.
PG&E claimed the ordinance exceeded the fire district’s authority and infringed on the jurisdiction of the California Public Utilities Commission. The company insists that giving 48 hours’ notice is not feasible because it needs flexibility to act during times of high fire risk, especially during a Public Safety Power Shutoff. PG&E also maintains that its safety and infrastructure teams are on site to support fire prevention efforts, not as first responders.
The court ruled Thursday against PG&E on a procedural issue. The judge said the utility did not meet the time limit for publishing a legal notice of its lawsuit in a local newspaper.
PG&E declined to discuss the case or elaborate on any further actions against the fire district. “This is an ongoing legal proceeding as the judge has not issued the actual order so we can’t comment at this time,” company spokesman Matt Nauman said.
While pleased with the court victory, San Ramon Valley Fire said it had no problem allying with PG&E on fire safety procedures. However, the district said its cooperation has its limits.
“We are willing to work with PG&E to help mitigate fire danger, but we are unwilling to let go of our ability to oversee their work,” Chief Paige Meyer said.
He alluded to the catastrophic 2018 wildfire in Butte County that CalFire determined was caused by faulty PG&E transmission lines. “This could be a way for PG&E to enhance working with fire districts to avoid another Paradise,” Meyer said.