PG&E penalty

Feb 28, 2020

PG&E faces record $2.1B penalty over lethal wildfires


Sac Bee's DALE KASLER: "PG&E Corp. agreed last fall to pay a record $1.675 billion penalty for causing deadly wildfires that swept through California wine country and destroyed the town of Paradise in 2017 and 2018. Now the state is asking for more.


A Public Utilities Commission administrative law judge proposed Thursday that PG&E be penalized $2.137 billion for its role in the fires, saying last fall’s settlement wasn’t enough. The new figure, like the earlier penalty, would be a record for the PUC.


The original penalty was the result of a negotiated settlement between the bankrupt utility and the PUC’s staff. The administrative law judge, Sophia Park, said more money is justified because of the magnitude of the fires and PG&E’s lax behavior. The Camp Fire killed 85 people, more than any wildfire in California history. The wine country fires in 2017 killed more than 40 people."


Not time to panic, but Sierra snowpack less than half of normal


The Chronicle's MICHAEL CABANATUAN: "After a historically dry and abnormally balmy February, California’s snowpack has withered to just 46% of normal, raising concerns of a dangerous fire season and a looming drought.


State water officials conducted their third manual snow measurement of the season near Lake Tahoe Thursday morning, hours after the U.S. Drought Monitor issued a weekly report showing nearly a quarter of the state in a moderate drought and 46% of it suffering unusually dry conditions.


Climate scientists and water experts say it’s too early to panic, but they acknowledge that even in the unlikely event that March and April produce lots of precipitation, it could be the start of another drought."


Newsom's dad helped protect California mountain lions. Now his son faces the fallout


Sac Bee's RYAN SABALOW/SOPHIA BOLLAG: "Thirty years ago, California voters approved a ballot initiative championed by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s father, William Newsom, that banned mountain lion hunting in the state. The initiative was approved in part because it secured protections for ranchers to shoot mountain lions that kill or maim their livestock.


Now, the father’s crusade is a thorn in the son’s paw.


William Newsom’s law is making it harder for Gov. Newsom to stop California’s iconic big cats from getting trapped and shot – even as the Democratic governor is feeling pressure from environmentalists seeking to protect cougars even further under the state’s Endangered Species Act. Newsom’s wildlife agency also is under fire for allowing a rancher in Ventura County to kill one of the rare cougars that prowl the Santa Monica hillsides of Southern California."


New employment law could give new exemption for writers, photographers


Sac Bee's ANDREW SHEELER: "The California Democrat behind the new state law that expands employment benefits to more workers offered an exemption for freelance writers on the same day that Republicans failed in an attempt to suspend the measure entirely.


Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, proposed the amendment to Assembly Bill 5 to remove a cap on the number of submissions freelance writers and photographers can contribute to a publication before a business would be obligated to hire them as an employee or cut ties with them. The law requires many independent contractors to be re-classified as employees with benefits.


The freelance amendment also would require that contracts specify rate of pay, a defined time by which the freelancer must receive payment and what rights the freelancer has to their intellectual property, according to a statement from Gonzalez’s office."


UC Davis coronavirus case prompted change in criteria for testing, CDC director says


Sac Bee's CATHIE ANDERSON/KATE IRBY: "U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield told congressional leaders on Thursday that the individual being treated for the new coronavirus in Sacramento has prompted the agency to do more testing because it indicates there is community spread.


On Wednesday, the CDC confirmed that public health officials did not yet know how the individual being treated at UC Davis Medical Center contracted the respiratory illness, which causes coughing, fever and shortness of breath.


The CDC has been testing only travelers from China who have shown symptoms during 14 days of isolation and their close contacts or members of their health care team who show signs of the illness. The agency has faced criticism for not testing patients hospitalized for pneumonia who had not traveled to China."


READ MORE related to Coronavirus: Public employees can't skip work because of coronavirus. How can they keep safe? -- Sac Bee's WES VENTEICHER/JASON POHL; Coronavirus testing is under scrutiny after delays and questions over its effectiveness -- LA Times's EMILY BAUMGAERTNER/ALEX WIGGLESWORTH/COLLEEN SHALBY


In red California, Democrats struggle to win young voters amid a 'sea of gray hairs'


LA Times's HAILEY BRANSON-POTTS: "There wasn’t a lot of youth to be found at an event called “Turning Out the Youth Vote” this month at Sierra College. Senior citizens outnumbered students 3 to 1.


One gray-haired woman said she had tried, and failed, to post something about the event on, “believe it or not, Instagram.” The decidedly blue-leaning room roared with annoyance when Dallas Thrift, a pro-Trump 18-year-old in a Space Force hat, yelled, “How many illegal immigrants do you think voted in the last election?”


The big draw was the free Subway sandwiches, which the vaunted youths raided before ducking out. In the hallway, several young women stopped a 19-year-old art student clutching a cold cut."


Past salaries can't be used to pay women less than men, court rules again


The Chronicle's BOB EGELKO: "Employers may not rely on employees’ past salaries to pay women less than men, a federal appeals court said Thursday, reinstating a ruling that the Supreme Court had set aside because its author died before the decision was issued.


The Equal Pay Act of 1963 was intended to “eradicate the practice of paying women less simply because they are women,” said the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. “Allowing employers to escape liability by relying on employees’ prior pay would defeat the purpose of the act and perpetuate the very discrimination (it) aims to eliminate.”


The 11-judge panel ruled unanimously that Fresno County school officials had violated the law by relying entirely on a female math consultant’s past salary to pay her at least $13,000 less than a male colleague. But the court’s more sweeping conclusion — that employers cannot rely on past pay levels, as opposed to experience or job skills, to justify a woman’s lower salary — drew only a 6-5 majority."


Deputies shared graphic photos of Kobe Bryant crash scene, sources say


LA Times's ALENE TCHEKMEDYIAN/PAUL PRINGLE: "Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies shared graphic photos of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and eight others, according to two public safety sources with knowledge of the events.


After multiple inquiries by The Times, the Sheriff’s Department said Thursday that the “matter is being looked into.”


It’s unclear how widely the photos might have been disseminated and who exactly was involved. It’s also unclear whether the deputies had actually taken the photos at the scene or had received them from someone else."


SF corruption investigation yields 14 new subpoenas served as Nuru probe widens


The Chronicle's DOMINIC FRACASSA: "San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera issued a flurry of subpoenas Thursday in a widening public corruption investigation started after former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru’s arrest on fraud charges last month.


Herrera’s office issued 14 subpoenas to firms with ties to either Walter Wong, a San Francisco building permit consultant, or Zhang Li, a billionaire real estate developer from China.


“We’re not going to stop until we get to the bottom of this,” Herrera said in a statement."


With $120M and few students, California's new online community college faces audit


The Chronicle's NANETTE ASIMOV: "The California state auditor will take a deep look at the state’s unaccredited new online community college, Calbright, to learn whether it’s offering students what it promised — and whether its $120 million cost to taxpayers so far is money well spent, lawmakers said this week.


“We have some concerns regarding Calbright College,” Assemblyman Jose Medina, D-Riverside, told the state’s Joint Legislative Audit Committee on Wednesday. He and two other lawmakers, Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, and Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton (Orange County), asked for the audit at the request of community college faculty leaders.


The idea behind the fully online public college has been to help teach more people faster and cheaper than at traditional community colleges. But to critics, Calbright has appeared slow to enroll students and hire instructors, and expensive to run. Faculty leaders from other schools have long complained that the 115th community college duplicates the offerings of campuses across the state — prohibited in the legislation authorizing Calbright — and that its executives set up the college without consulting instructors. Meanwhile, Calbright employees have felt squeezed by the mandated legislative timeline of less than a year to establish the college from scratch."


Weinstein conviction could pave the way for more sexual assault prosecutions


The Chronicle's LAURA NEWBERRY: "The morning after Harvey Weinstein was convicted of rape, a dozen women who have accused the fallen movie mogul of sexual misconduct stood on the steps of L.A. City Hall and spoke of the dawn of a new era.


Actress Caitlin Dulany told reporters that on Monday, in the first few hours after Weinstein was handcuffed and taken into custody, she saw a little girl running around in the grocery store.


“You will have a different world because of what happened today,” Dulany said she imagined telling the girl. “It will not be the same. It will never be the same.”"