Power Cut to 60,000 in Northern California to Prevent Wildfires
Major California utility Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) shut off power to 60,000 Northern California residents Sunday night in an attempt to reduce the risk of wildfires sparking from hot, dry windy weather, the Huffington Post reported Tuesday.
A total of 100,000 people were warned their power might be cut off due to wind speeds of 60 miles per hour and gusts of 70 miles per hour increasing the risk of electrical fires.
"The safety of our customers and the communities we serve is PG&E's top priority," PG&E's senior vice president of electric operations Pat Hogan told the Huffington Post. "We know how much our customers rely on electric service and only considered temporarily turning off power in the interest of safety, and as a last resort during extreme weather conditions."
The communities covered by the blackout were about 42,0000 customers in El Dorado, Amador and Calaveras counties in the Sierra Foothills and 17,483 customers in parts of Lake, Napa and Sonoma counties, CNN reported.
PG&E tweeted Monday night that they had restored power to more than 38,000 customers in the North Bay and the Sierra Foothills as of 9:30 p.m. and expected to restore power to their remaining customers by Tuesday.
[Public Safety Power Shutoff Update] As of 9:30pm, +38k customers restored in North Bay & Sierra Foothills. We expe… https://t.co/NLiAXSpfot— PG&E (@PG&E)1539665978.0
More than 22 million people both in Northern and Southern California were under a Red Flag Warning Monday, the warning issued when conditions are ripe for wildfires, CNN meteorologist Haley Brink said.
"It's fire weather season," Brink said. "Any new fires that do form today will spread rapidly."
Trees striking power lines are a major fire risk, and were the cause of a dozen of the fires that formed a deadly cluster in Northern California in the fall of 2017, according to a California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection report cited by the Huffington Post.
But some customers and consumer advocates said the blackouts were less about protecting the public, and more about protecting utilities from liability.
California Governor Jerry Brown signed a law weeks ago that allows PG&E to pay off the more than 200 lawsuits it is facing over the 2017 fires using state bonds, but the legislation did not spare the utilities from future liability.
"When the utilities don't get what they want, they start turning the power off," Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court told The New York Times. "They were disappointed in the Legislature. They clearly want more. They want no liability."
Locals also complained that the blackouts were only necessary because PG&E hadn't done the work of maintaining its lines by clearing trees ahead of time.
"There's a feeling that this is because PG&E didn't take care of what needed to be taken care of in the past, and now we're having to pay the price for that," Nevada City independent movie theater manager Celine Negrete told the San Francisco Chronicle, as the Huffington Post reported. "That's what I'm hearing on social media really loudly."
Increased wildfires in California have been linked to climate change, and senior vice president for transmission and distribution at Southern California Edison Phil Herrington, whose utility also warned customers they could face blackouts, defended the utilities' actions as an extreme response to an extreme situation.
"The change in weather patterns that we're seeing, we have to look at everything in a new light," Herrington told The New York Times "It is something that truly is a last resort for us."
Wildfires, Record Highs Scorch California https://t.co/2AAbrihDqt #HeatWave2018 #HeatWaveLA @NRDC @ClimateReality… https://t.co/pHrHsyQMU8— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1531137679.0
At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
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