California utility PG&E vows more power shutdowns to counteract wildfire


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) – California utility PG&E Corp titans increase the controversial practice of turning off the power to communities at risk of wildfire when dangerous conditions just like high winds and dry heat are mixed together.

In a report to suggest regulators, PG&E said it would also remove 375,000 trees near electricity lines, trim vegetation over 2,500 square miles (6,475 square km) and conduct numerous inspections to stop its equipment from sparking wildfires.

PG&E is under intense scrutiny due to the role in sparking higher than a dozen wildfires over the past two years. It filed bankruptcy a few weeks ago, citing anticipated liabilities, such as possibility its equipment triggered November’s deadly Camp Fire, which destroyed the Northern California capital of scotland- Paradise and killed 86 people.

The San Francisco-based utility, which serves 16 million customers, said hello would increase nearly tenfold its efforts to show off the ability to communities threatened by wildfire, helping the number of households and businesses potentially influenced by fire-prevention blackouts in 2019 to 5.4 million.

Such shutoffs were also used 2009 to keep live electricity through the lines from leaving a fire when high winds and heat hit extreme levels and nearby brush or trees is usually ignited.

Mark Toney, who directs the utility consumer advocacy group the Utility Reform Network (TURN), said shutting off power would harm vulnerable people, including folks that rely on electricity to power life-saving medical equipment.

“The fact there is a great dramatic continuing development of power shutoffs being a strategy to stop wildfires may be a sign of PG&E’s failure and mismanagement in regards to trimming the trees and tending to the grid,” he said.

PG&E spokeswoman Kristi Jourdan said the manufacturer would only switch off the power to some community as a general last resort to maintain people safe.

“Damage and appreciate that turning off the power affects method critical facilities, communications systems and even more,” she said.

The firm is also on probation pertaining to a criminal conviction inside deadly 2010 explosion of a of its gas main lines within the city of San Bruno near San fran.

The judge if that’s the case said even though consider the company’s wildfire plan in deciding whether PG&E needs to have more for preventing wildfire.

California law requires all investor-owned utilities to file wildfire mitigation plans annually.