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California utility faces anger, mistrust over power outages: 'It is excessive'

Joseph Serna, Taryn Luna, Jaclyn Cosgrove and Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

"PG&E should have been doing the proper maintenance for the last decade," Clarke said. "This wouldn't have been necessary (if they had), and I think that's what has got everyone so angry and frustrated with PG&E right now. This is a crisis of PG&E's making."

Assembly Republican leader Marie Waldron, R-Escondido, said PG&E's announcement is a sign of how far the state has fallen behind in efforts to prevent catastrophic wildfires.

"This is the frustrating result of decades of forest mismanagement and aging energy infrastructure," Waldron said. "These shutoffs highlight the need to invest in vegetation management, update our energy grid and help Californians harden their homes against wildfires."

PG&E has defended its decision, though, saying it is acting to prevent a repeat of fatal fires.

Nearly all of California's biggest and most deadly wildfires have occurred in the last 20 years, with many of them being sparked by electrical grid failures.

It's that liability that pushed PG&E into bankruptcy this year and has raised concerns that utilities may become more eager to shut off power to avoid potential catastrophe, even when the risk is minimal.

 

Scores of lawsuits have been filed on behalf of people whose loved ones were killed, whose pets disappeared into the blazing wilderness and who lost everything they owned. They accuse the utility of failing to properly maintain its equipment.

Gov. Gavin Newsom defended PG&E's plans for the intentional power shutdowns.

"The reality is that we want to protect people. We want to make sure people are safe. This is what PG&E thinks is in the best interest of their customers and ultimately for this region and the state," the governor said.

"It is a massive inconvenience," he added. "No one wants to see this happen. But it is a public safety issue."

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