Insurers Sue PG&E Over Camp Fire Damages

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – Several insurance companies have filed lawsuits blaming Pacific Gas & Electric Co. for a deadly California wildfire that destroyed 14,000 homes and triggered billions of dollars in insurance claims.

The lawsuits filed by Allstate, State Farm, USAA and their subsidiaries come on top of several other cases filed by victims of the Camp Fire, which devastated the towns of Paradise, Magalia and Concow north of Sacramento after it started Nov. 8.

Investigators have not pinpointed a cause for the fire. But the insurance companies note in their lawsuits that flames ignited near the site of a transmission-line irregularity reported by the utility. They also note a potential second ignition point involving PG&E distribution lines.

READ: Robbers Hit Camp Fire Evacuees Living At Hotels

Under California law, PG&E is held entirely liable if lawyers can prove the fire is linked to the utility’s power lines or other equipment – a fact that sent shares of the company tumbling following the start of the fire.

Following a series of deadly fires in 2017 in Northern California’s wine country, PG&E executives and lobbyists tried to convince state lawmakers to change the legal standard and reduce the company’s liability. Lawmakers declined, but they allowed the company to pass along some of the costs from the 2017 fires to its customers in hopes of sparing it from bankruptcy. The law does not help the company for the 2018 blazes.

The lawsuits were filed last month in Sacramento County Superior Court. They were first reported by the Sacramento Business Journal.

“We are aware of lawsuits regarding the Camp Fire,” Lynsey Paulo, a PG&E spokeswoman, said in a statement. “Our focus continues to be on assessing infrastructure to further enhance safety and helping our customers recover and rebuild.”

ALSOMen Arrested For Allegedly Stealing FEMA Trailers Meant For Camp Fire Victims

PG&E, one of the nation’s largest electric utilities with more than 5 million customers in Northern and Central California, is facing legal and regulatory challenges on a number of fronts, including the potential for criminal charges.

The California attorney general told a judge last week that PG&E could face charges as serious as involuntary manslaughter or murder if investigators determine that reckless operation or maintenance of power equipment caused any recent wildfires in the state.

A federal judge overseeing a case that resulted in a criminal conviction for the company following a 2010 pipeline explosion has asked PG&E to explain any role it may have had in the Camp Fire. The judge could impose new requirements on the utility if it’s found to have violated its probation in the pipeline case.

 

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press.

Investigators Eye Idaho Woman Suspected Of Disposing Of Missing Mom’s Phone

(CNN) — Police are looking at an Idaho woman suspected of disposing of the phone of Kelsey Berreth, the 29-year-old Colorado mom allegedly killed by her fiancé, a source with knowledge of the investigation told CNN Thursday.

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Kelsey Berreth (credit: Woodland Park Police)

Berreth’s fiancé, Patrick Frazee, was charged Monday in Colorado in connection with her death. Berreth, who disappeared last month, was the mother of his 1-year-old daughter.

The connection between the unidentified woman in Idaho, Frazee and Berreth is unclear.

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Patrick Frazee and Kelsey Berreth (credit: Facebook/Missing Mother – Kelsey Berreth)

Police in Twin Falls, Idaho, have been trying to return to Colorado evidence of a sensitive nature that was discovered in December, after the FBI asked them to assist in the murder investigation, they said Thursday.

Police would not discuss the evidence further and said they’re working with Colorado investigators to determine whether the items should be sent by mail or courier.

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Patrick Frazee in court on Monday (credit: CBS)

Frazee was charged in Teller County with two counts of first-degree murder and three counts of solicitation to commit murder in the first degree, according to District Attorney Dan May. The charges reflect prosecutors’ dual theories of the crime.

Frazee was arrested almost a month after Berreth vanished on Thanksgiving near Woodland Park, a city between Denver and Colorado Springs.

Berreth’s employer got a text from her phone on November 25, saying she wouldn’t be able to work that week, police said. Frazee said she also texted him that day, but the contents of that text haven’t been released.

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(CBS)

That same day, Berreth’s phone was tracked to a location near Gooding, Idaho, according to Woodland Park Police Chief Miles De Young. Gooding is roughly 800 miles northwest of Woodland Park.

Authorities do not believe Berreth is alive, but they have not found her body. They have not determined a motive.

Frazee told police he last saw Berreth on November 22, when he picked up their daughter, making him the last known person to report seeing her alive.

frazee still from Chitnis vid Investigators Eye Idaho Woman Suspected Of Disposing Of Missing Moms Phone

(credit: CBS)

Frazee is being held without bond. A hearing is scheduled for January 29. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Frazee felt ‘railroaded,’ he told an acquaintance

Berreth and Frazee met online two years ago when Berreth lived in Warden, Washington, said her cousin, Jodee Garreston. Within months, Berreth moved to Colorado to be with Frazee, said Garreston, who has never met Frazee.

Frazee has a business shoeing horses in Teller County. Several of Frazee’s friends and clients told CNN that he was well known and liked in the community and was a good father to daughter Kaylee.

Two friends said Frazee told them that his relationship with Berreth ended months ago — claims that contradict statements from Berreth’s aunt, who wrote on Facebook that Berreth broke up with Frazee the same day she went missing.

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Patrick Frazee (credit: Teller County)

“I still refuse to believe that he’s done this until I see the evidence,” said Tamra Freeman, whose granddaughter played with Frazee’s daughter.

Freeman said Frazee told her the relationship with Berreth ended on New Year’s Day 2018 and the only contact they had was related to their daughter. Berreth’s mother has not responded to CNN’s requests for comment.

Frazee was at Freeman’s home two days before his arrest, she said. She recalls him being concerned about what would happen to Kaylee if he were arrested, she said.

Freeman said Frazee told her he felt “railroaded” by police, who he claimed seemed to be focused only on him.

Kaylee Berreth, the daughter of Patrick Frazee and Kelsey Berreth, will remain in the care of her maternal grandparents temporarily, according to a court document posted Thursday on the Teller County court website.

The court ordered that Kelsey Berreth’s parents, who appeared by phone, not to comment publicity about the case because of concerns of it not being in the best interest of the child, the document says.

By Ray Sanchez and Scott McLean, CNN

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2019 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

City Leaders Celebrate Completion Of $551M Moscone Center Expansion

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — After fours years of construction, the $551 million expansion to San Francisco’s Moscone Center opened for business on Thursday morning.

During a lavish ribbon-cutting ceremony at the center’s South building on Howard Street, which included over 1,000 guests, Mayor London Breed and other city officials helped celebrate the completed project.

“This expansion is something that is overdue. It is going to help generate the kind of tourism that San Francisco is so very proud of,” Breed said.

“This expansion takes us into a level of capacity and quality that will clearly compete with other venues around the world,” said Jeff Joslin of the San Francisco Planning Department.

The project added 157,000 square feet to the center, bringing the total amount of usable space at the center’s three buildings, Moscone North, South and West, to 1,139,775 square feet.

Combined, all three buildings now boast a total of 114 flexible meeting rooms, in addition to expansive lobbies and outdoor terraces offering iconic San Francisco views.

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People stand on one of the new terraces and look out at the skyline during the Moscone Center expansion opening Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, in San Francisco.  (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

The expanded center was designed to earn Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum Status, with innovative features such as its own water treatment system, converting an estimated 15 million gallons of recovered rainwater annually for landscaping and street cleaning.

Additionally, the building features its own solar panel array, the largest in the city and one of the largest publicly-owned solar power systems in the U.S. Solar energy generated from the center’s panels will provide the center with about 20 percent of its power.

Premiere convention space, however, is not San Francisco’s only challenge in landing conventions. In July, a major medical group that had been coming to the city since the 1980’s canceled their convention on account of San Francisco’s highly-publicized struggles with homelessness, drugs, waste and property crime.

San Francisco has recently experienced the highest rate of car break-ins of any major city in America. “It’s a real concern, I think,” admits Joe D’Alessandro of the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“People want to make sure when they go to a travel destination that they’re safe and secure, and if there’s any image or any thought of San Francisco not being a safe or secure city, it causes a big challenge.”

Breed stayed on-brand when asked about these challenges, reiterating plans for 1,000 new shelter beds and other efforts to scale up the city’s efforts on homelessness and street conditions.

“No, we’re not going to be able to address these challenges overnight,” Breed said at the Moscone Center dedication. “My goal is to make sure that we make the right investments so that the results will be something that people can see and feel when they’re walking down the streets. and that’s going to take time.”

During Thursday morning’s ribbon cutting ceremony, Breed rededicated the center in honor of its namesake, former San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, who served as mayor up until his assassination inside City Hall in 1978.

Breed described him as being “committed to our core values of inclusion, bringing people together, and pushing forward transformative projects.”

Additionally, Breed also announced that the lobby in the center’s South building will be named in honor of former Mayor Ed Lee, who passed away unexpectedly in 2017.

“Because of the leadership of our late Mayor Ed Lee, this was possible,” Breed said. “As a result of his hard work, here we are, at an incredible facility.”

Some of the well-known larger events held at the Moscone Center include Salesforce’s annual Dreamforce conference, Oracle’s annual Oracle Openworld convention and the Game Developers Conference.

 

© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.