Judge takes oversight of PG&E’s wildfire prevention plans

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal judge says he will closely monitor Pacific Gas & Electric’s tree-trimming this year and barred the utility from paying out dividends to shareholders as part of a new, court-ordered wildfire prevention plan.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup ordered the new plan Tuesday during a court hearing in San Francisco to consider terms of the utility’s felony probation for a deadly natural gas explosion.

Alsup modified the terms as part of an effort to cut down on wildfires started by the company’s equipment, mostly by trees falling onto power lines. Alsup called the utility’s efforts to prevent trees from hitting its power lines and starting wildfires dismal while paying $4.5 billion in 2017 dividends.

PG&E suspended dividend payments in late 2017 and Alsup barred the company from restarting them.

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