A lesson in “making sense” of a bad deal – The Ukiah Daily Journal


Wells and water transport

Last week, I updated you on a few ventures I’m involved in to get out of the drought.

Last year, the oversight board created a body called the Ad Hoc Drought Committee overseen by supes John Haschak and Glenn McGourty.

This committee is looking at a variety of groundwater issues, including existing wells, drilling new wells, transporting water, and reviving the county water agency that was abolished ten years ago. The Water Agency issue is actually a separate committee effort and process, and we haven’t had a meeting yet. Which is fine with me because Mendocino County doesn’t have a single water right to a single drop of water in that county. So by my calculations, while a functioning water agency might be worth restoring, we have bigger fish to fry right now. A Water Agency steering committee has been formed to make recommendations to relaunch the defunct agency, and at the end of the month we hold our first meeting. I will keep you informed of any development.

I have worked on these water issues with many different people including representatives from water districts, water transporters, livestock, agriculture, law enforcement, environmental health and concerned citizens, trying to find the best way to solve these problems.

We meet every month for about 60-90 minutes, and have been able to come up with recommendations regarding water wells and water transportation that include a general framework of proposed rules and procedures. We’re probably setting a record for short meetings that have been very productive so far, a dynamic that’s unprecedented (at least in this county). I’ll take very minor credit for doing this so far because at our very first meeting I presented a general framework focused on starting water source use ( private sector wells and local water utilities, continuing through to medium use (water transportation), end use (delivery of water to the end user’s property). there is still work to be done, but we have begun to attempt to exercise greater oversight and control over some difficult issues that many county residents are concerned about.

For example, we need to develop standard conditions and guidelines for drilling commercial water wells. Private sector commercial well owners/operators should be required to obtain a use permit, business license, conduct a hydrological survey, maintain metering records, of water sold, to whom it is sold , etc. Similarly, commercial water haulers should be required to obtain licensing contracts and tracking records detailing the gallons of water transported and the location of water deliveries, and hauling after dark would be prohibited. of the night.

The main reason the process is working so far is that most of the participants know what they are talking about due to their hands-on experience in dealing with different aspects of water policy and water-related operations. . To date, there has been no evidence of hidden agendas or political muddles. Neither Haschak nor McGourty have been a problem, not that I expect them to be. In fact, they supported and endorsed almost all of the advice and recommendations of committee participants.

More importantly, they listen far more than they speak in our meetings.

And that aligns with my belief that there was a reason the Creator gave us two ears but one mouth.

DA Coalition and PG&E deal draws fire from victims

District attorneys in six fire-ravaged counties announced a settlement with PG&E last Monday, eliminating the possibility of criminal charges for the catastrophic fires at Kincade and Dixie, the electric monopoly caused in 2019 and 2021.

The six-county coalition is made up of Sonoma, Butte, Lassen, Plumas, Shasta and Tehama. Mendocino County was not involved in the process, thus qualifying as a smart move by our DA.

Organizers of Reclaim Our Power, the largest coalition of grassroots organizations fighting to hold PG&E accountable and for a transformation of California’s energy system, called out the settlement for its failure to truly hold PG&E accountable for their crimes, and called on the Governor Gavin Newsom “to take action to end PG&E’s reign of terror in California.

Mary Kay Benson, an advocate for Butte County wildfire survivors, said, “What would it take to really hold PG&E accountable? How many cities burned, lives turned upside down, lungs scorched must we see until justice is served? For the millionaire executives of murderous PG&E, the money from this settlement is a rounding error and an appalling way to mistreat the families, farmworkers, forests and lives damaged by this monstrous corporation.

The settlement would total just $55 million, largely in contributions to local education and nonprofits, for damages that will likely run into the billions of dollars. In contrast, it was recently reported that PG&E paid its new CEO Patti Poppe $50 million in salary and benefits in 2021.

Sounds like a bargain – for the new CEO, of course. But as is always the case with ordinary people, they had the wrong side of the stick.

Reclaim Our Power says the survivors of the fire have presented the Sonoma District Attorney with tangible and concrete avenues to hold PG&E accountable throughout this process, including forcing the utility back on criminal probation, following through to the accusations of having caused noxious smoke and even bringing the proof of what happened to cause these public fires, to avoid future calamities. The regulations did not include any of these provisions.

The six-county DA coalition released a joint statement that misrepresents reality. They said it made more sense to reach a civil settlement “to maximize the return to victims of the fire rather than seek criminal penalties.” The utility paid just $4 million in fines after pleading guilty to 85 felony charges in the 2018 Camp Fire, California’s deadliest wildfire on record. The judge lamented that the $4 million is the maximum penalty under the law. Unless the feds decide to prosecute the Dixie Fire, the deal allows PG&E to avoid the stigma of more criminal convictions on its record as it struggles to polish its tattered reputation while spending billions each year to improve forest fire safety.

According to the Sacramento Bee, “PG&E Corp. on Monday reached a dramatic settlement with prosecutors in six California counties that allows it to avoid criminal charges over two notorious wildfires. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. will instead pay tens of millions of dollars in fines, charitable contributions and other expenses. The state’s largest utility has agreed to pay more than $55 million to avoid lawsuits over last year’s Dixie Fire – the second-largest wildfire in recorded history. California – and the 2019 Kincade Fire in Sonoma County. The company had previously been charged in connection with the Kincade fire and was being investigated by district attorneys in five counties following the Dixie fire.

Regardless, as part of the deal, the Sonoma County prosecutor dropped the criminal case and the other coalition prosecutors announced they would drop charges. However, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento also investigated PG&E’s role in the Dixie fire and was not a party to the settlement. Since the 2019 Kincade fire occurred in Sonoma County, it falls outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento, but the jurisdiction of the San Francisco office, which so far does not wasn’t involved in the matter, at least publicly. CALFIRE investigations revealed that both fires were caused by PG&E power lines.

The deal has clearly angered many fire victims and others, given PG&E’s abysmal history of mandatory tree and vegetation maintenance, wildfire safety, and the extent of the damage caused by the two fires. But the district attorney for Plumas County – where the worst damage from the Dixie fire occurred – said “the deal made sense”.

Of course, this behind-the-scenes deal probably makes the most sense for those who suffered no loss of life or property, i.e. the coalition ADs, due to PG&E’s criminal actions in triggering the most destructive and costly wildfires in California history.

Jim Shields is the editor and publisher of the Mendocino County Observer, [email protected], the longtime district manager of the Laytonville County Water District, and is also chairman of the City Area Advisory Board of Laytonville. Listen to his radio show “This and That” every Saturday at noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also broadcast live: http://www.kpfn.org


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