SAN FRANCISCO — Pacific Gas & Electric Co. will be back in a U.S. courtroom a day after declaring bankruptcy, as it tries to convince a judge not to order dramatic steps to try to prevent its equipment from causing more wildfires.U.S. Judge William Alsup is scheduled to hear arguments Wednesday on his proposal earlier this month that the nation’s largest utility remove or trim all trees that could fall onto its power lines in high-wind conditions and shut off power at certain times regardless of the inconvenience to customers or loss of profit.Alsup is overseeing a criminal conviction against PG&E on pipeline safety charges stemming from a deadly gas line explosion in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2010. The measures the judge has proposed would be part of the utility’s probation.Alsup said his goal was to prevent PG&E equipment from causing any wildfires during the 2019 fire season. PG&E shot back in a court filing last week that the judge’s proposals would endanger lives and could cost as much as $150 billion to implement. They would also interfere with the work of federal and state regulators, PG&E said.Wildfire damage has become a multibillion-dollar liability for the utility. The company filed for bankruptcy Tuesday in the face of hundreds of lawsuits from victims of wildfires in 2017 and 2018, including the nation’s deadliest wildfire in a century.That blaze in November killed at least 86 people and destroyed 15,000 homes in and around the Northern California town of Paradise. The cause is still under investigation, but suspicion fell on PG&E after it reported power line problems nearby around the time the fire broke out.Alsup noted that state fire investigators have determined PG&E caused eighteen wildfires in 2017, twelve of which they referred for possible criminal prosecution. Last week, however, state investigators determined that the company’s equipment was not to blame for a 2017 fire that killed 22 people and destroyed more than 5,600 buildings in Northern California wine country. That finding spared PG&E from billions in liability.Bankruptcy may not spare PG&E from carrying out any orders issued by Alsup. Filing for bankruptcy does not generally put criminal proceedings on hold, said Jared Ellias, a bankruptcy attorney who now teaches at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. But he said the bankruptcy case and the criminal matter before Alsup would overlap a great deal, so it would be “hard to imagine both going forward, as the judges could enter conflicting orders.”The Chapter 11 filing allows PG&E to continue operating while it puts its books in order. It could lead to higher bills for customers and reduce the size of any payouts to fire victims by consolidating all their cases in bankruptcy court.PG&E said the bankruptcy will allow for an “orderly, fair and expeditious resolution” of wildfire claims.“Throughout this process, we are fully committed to enhancing our wildfire safety efforts, as well as helping restoration and rebuilding efforts across the communities impacted by the devastating Northern California wildfires,” interim CEO John R. Simon said in a statement.Jeffrey Hammond said he is now pessimistic that he will collect any money from the lawsuit he filed against the company for the loss of his Napa County home in a 2017 wildfire. Investigators say the blaze started when an oak tree fell onto a PG&E power line.“I’m 76, going to be 77 soon,” he said. “And this will take years to sort out.”___Bussewitz contributed from New York.Sudhin Thanawala, The Associated Press
Developer of the sonic drill, Canadian Ray Roussy will be inducted in the Exploration category at the gala dinner in the Brown Palace Hotel, Denver on February 16 (www.im-halloffame.com). Roussy, President of Sonic Drilling Ltd and the Sonic Drill Corp is the patent holder and the developer of modern day sonic drilling technology – a technology that has made a significant impact on the mining industry. Today, seven out of 10 sonic rigs are purchased for mining exploration. Although the diamond drill has long been the preferred tool for mineral exploration in hard rock, in unconsolidated material, it has two unfortunate drawbacks. First, it doesn’t drill well in unconsolidated materials and, secondly, it can’t provide accurate core samples from that kind of formation. Only a sonic drill can recover a continuous core including boulders, clays, silt, sand and gravel and lay it in its stratigraphic sequence – from the surface all the way down to 100 m and deeper.Using Roussy’s innovative sonic drill head, samples, ranging from 3” to 8” in diameter, can be obtained from a wide variety of mineral deposits including hard-to-extract oil sands, slag piles, mine tailings and heap leach pads. Extruded into clear plastic sleeves and then neatly laid out, these core samples can be subjected to a detailed visual examination and analysis, followed by sampling, photographing and archiving for a permanent record of the existing mineral conditions and a comprehensive evaluation.Building his first sonic drill rig in his backyard more than 30 years ago, Roussy’s lifetime work has resulted in three prestigious awards, thanks to the unique features of his sonic drilling technology. The Roussy sonic drill head can:Drill three to five times faster (some users report ten times faster)Produce 70% less mess on siteDrill without the use of drilling mudDrill through mixed soils with easeProduce continuous core samples to 100 m+Use 50% less powerOffer many environmentally-friendly benefits including less noise, less waste, lighter engines, reduced fuel consumption, a smaller footprint and “green” hydraulic oil.Roussy’s sonic drill has overcome all of the traditional hurdles to cost-effective mineral exploration in unconsolidated material, making him a worthy member of the International Mining Technology Hall of Fame.The Sonic drilling technology has recently been nominated for a fourth award. The Northern Ontario Institute of Technology (NOIT) has nominated Roussy for an Ontario Premier’s award.Roussy is an alumni of NOIT where he was first introduced to mechanical engineering before continuing onto Lakehead University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering degree in 1974.Today, 40 years later, Roussy holds dozens of patents involving sonic drilling technology and is solely responsible for the successful commercialisation of it when others failed to make it work. If Roussy wins the Ontario Premier’s award, it will be the fourth award since 2008 for his technology.Today, award-winning sonic drill rigs, patented and built by the Sonic Drill Corp, are in use on six continents and in every application imaginable. Due to its non-intrusive abilities, sonic drilling technology has often been used (and specifically requested in government contracts) for sensitive projects such as dam remediation, nuclear site investigations and hazardous waste site reclamation.Because vibrations from the drill bit are not transmitted very far beyond the drill, penetrations can occur into very sensitive areas such as critical eco-systems, unstable terrain or vulnerable situations where traditional drilling would cause more harm or be impossible to complete.Initially, sonic drilling technology was seen as a powerful environmental investigation drill due to its ability to provide undisturbed core samples but, now, the technology has broadened in use to excel at geothermal installations, piling and mineral exploration.