PG&E says it's 'probable' its equipment started the Camp Fire
The Chronicle's J.D. MORRIS: "PG&E Corp. believes at least one of its power lines will be found responsible for starting last year’s devastating Camp Fire."
"The characterization, which came in the company’s first earnings report since the November fire, marked PG&E’s most definitive admission yet about its likely culpability in the largest and most destructive fire in California history. It is “probable” that its equipment was an ignition point for the blaze, the company said."
"PG&E said it was putting aside $10.5 billion that could pay for claims from the disaster. State investigators have found PG&E’s equipment responsible for a number of wildfires in Northern California two years ago — though not the highly destructive Tubbs Fire that burned through Santa Rosa — and the company reiterated Thursday that its total wildfire liability from 2017 and 2018 could top $30 billion."
Trump's interior secretary's links to Westlands draws legal complaint
Sacramento Bee's KATE IRBY: "Complaints are mounting against Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt over allegations he used his position to help the interests of his former lobbying client, California’s powerful Westlands Water District."
"The nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint accusing Bernhardt of ethics violations by partaking in decisions directly related to his past lobbying work, resulting in rules that would free up more river water to Fresno-based Westlands and weakening protections for certain endangered fish populations."
"It’s not the first of such complaints against Bernhardt, stemming from a report in the New York Times."
California bills target Trump rollbacks of crackdown on for-profit colleges
The Chronicle's ALEXEI KOSEFF: "California would add financial protections for students at for-profit colleges under measures that Democratic legislators introduced Wednesday in response to the Trump administration’s rollback of Obama-era regulations."
"The seven bills would place restrictions on college programs if graduates cannot find good-paying jobs, limit aggressive recruiting measures that target veterans and allow students to recoup more of their costs if their schools shut down."
"We are here today to say students come first, not shareholders,” said Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco."
Newsom wants to spend $40M to hire more firefighters. Why some want to double that
Sacramento Bee's WES VENTEICHER: "California is facing the worst wildfire conditions in its history with fewer engines and firefighters than it had 40 years ago, says a group of lawmakers and fire unions asking Gov. Gavin Newsom for an extra $84 million to beef up the state’s fire response."
"Cal Fire has 31 fewer engines than it had in 1975 yet it is responsible for more land, provides protection for more cities and faces drier forests and a longer fire season, said Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, one of the lawmakers advocating for more fire money."
"He’s urging the governor to put even more money toward hiring firefighters and buying equipment than the proposal Newsom offered when he released his first budget in January. Newsom wants to hire 131 more firefighters and buy 13 new engines at a cost of about $40 million. That would give the department about 6,000 firefighters, according to budget documents."
READ MORE related to Newsom Administration: Gov. Newsom declares state of emergency after Russian River flooding -- Sacramento Bee's SARAH RAVANI
Californians are losing hundreds of millions of dollars in recycling deposits
AP: "California consumers lost out on at least $308 million in 5-cent deposits on cans and bottles in 2018, largely because it’s increasingly difficult to find a place to recycle them, according to a new report."
"In the last five years, about 40% of California’s recycling centers have closed, with more than 100 closing in Los Angeles arriers to Californians finding a place to recycle, and many grocery stores won’t take back the empties."
READ MORE related to Energy & Environment: A February to remembrrr in LA: It never even reached 70 degrees -- LA Times's HANNAH FRY/ALEJANDRA REYES-VELARDE/SUHAUNA HUUSSAIN; February storms doubled Sierra snowpack, state snow survey shows -- The Chronicle's LAUREN HERNANDEZ; Stunning scenes as water rises in the North Bay -- The Chronicle
Democrats, facing a big candidate field, ask: Who is most electable over Trump?
LA Times's JANET HOOK: Marcus Scott is looking for a Democratic presidential candidate who will be rude to Donald Trump. Kara LaMarche wants an upbeat, positive approach. Ben Dion wants a nominee with experience and gravitas. Linds Jakows has had it with older white men in power."
"Those voters, like fellow Democrats across the country, seek very different things in the big and growing presidential candidate field. But they share one top priority: Picking a nominee who will beat President Trump in 2020."
Yolo County 'substantially subsidized' detention of teenage immigrants, state audit says
Sacramento Bee's MADDY ASHYMUN: "Yolo County “substantially subsidized” parts of the federal government’s program to house unaccompanied immigrant children, according to a new report from the California State Auditor’s Office."
"The state auditor estimates that Yolo County might have paid about $700,000 in program costs that could have been covered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services."
"Yolo County has a contract with the department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement to house up to 24 unaccompanied immigrant teens in the Yolo Juvenile Facility."
Man guilty in $3.4M fraud scheme targeting San Juan Unified students
Sacramento Bee's VINCENT MOLESKI: "A man was found guilty of fraud and identity theft Tuesday for his involvement in a nationwide credit card scheme targeting San Juan Unified School District students."
"Ruslan Kirilyuk, 41, of Beverly Hills was found guilty of 24 counts of wire fraud, two counts of mail fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft and one count of failure to appear in connection with a nationwide credit card scheme involving Sacramento and Moscow operatives, according to a news release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California."
"Evidence presented in court showed that Kirilyuk conspired with Mihran Melkonyan, 38, of Sacramento, Rouslan Akhmerov, 42, of Studio City and Alexandr Maslov, 38, of Sacramento, among others, in creating about 71 fraudulent online companies that charged more than $3.4 million to about 119,000 stolen credit card numbers between October 2011 and March 2014, according to the release."
READ MORE related to Education: Moms can reduce rate of autism -- even for kids at high risk, new UC Davis study shows -- Sacramento Bee's CATHIE ANDERSON; Disclosure requirements for charter schools await Gov. Newsom's signature -- EdSource's JOHN FENSTERWALD
Oakland police officer alleges scapegoating, cover-up in police sex scandal
The Chronicle's MEGAN CASSIDY: "A former internal affairs investigator at the Oakland Police Department says she was scapegoated by the department’s brass amid a sprawling officer misconduct case, and that she was subsequently demoted and retaliated against because of her race and gender."
"Mildred Oliver is now the second Oakland officer to allege a high-ranking coverup in a death investigation and sexual exploitation scandal that ensnared officers from multiple Bay Area agencies, cost Oakland upward of $1 million in legal fees, and stained the department’s reputation."
"Oliver, a 22-year veteran still employed with the department, laid out the allegations in a lawsuit filed last week in Alameda County Superior Court. The suit lists both the city of Oakland and the Police Department as defendants."
Rep. Swalwell looking forward to asking Cohen tough questions
The Chronicle's JOE GAROFOLI: "Seven hours of Michael Cohen testimony before the House Oversight Committee wasn’t enough for Rep. Eric Swalwell. The Dublin Democrat was looking forward to hearing Cohen testify Thursday, in private, before the House Intelligence Committee."
"There, Swalwell told the “It’s All Political” podcast, his first order of business would be to ask the question that the federal marshal played by Tommy Lee Jones famously asked in the 1993 movie “The Fugitive”: “Do you want to change your bulls— story, sir?”"
"“I’m very grateful that he’s coming clean, but we’ve got a big bulls— story that we were told and he needs to clean it up,” Swalwell said."