Quantcast

Power Outage Intended to Prevent Wildfires Will Affect Millions of Californians Who Use PG&E

Climate
A PG&E analyst monitors weather and satellite images of fire areas at the PG&E Wildfire Safety Operations Center on Aug. 5 in San Francisco. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) began shutting off power in Northern California midnight Wednesday in its biggest attempt yet to prevent wildfires, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.


The outage will impact 800,000 customers in Northern and Central California, and could last through Tuesday of next week. Because a customer could mean a business or residence that includes multiple people, the total number of people affected could reach the millions. It is the largest preventative power shutoff in state history, according to The Associated Press.

The outage is an attempt to prevent tree limbs from knocking against power lines and sparking a blaze as strong winds follow a dry period.

"We implement this public safety power shutoff as a last resort," vice president of PG&E's Community Wildfire Safety Program Sumeet Singh said in a statement reported by CNN.

The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued red flag warnings for the North Bay Mountains and Valleys, East Bay Hills and East Bay Valleys starting Wednesday morning, according to CNN. This means that warm weather, low humidity and strong wind combine to increase fire risk.

"This is a recipe for explosive fire growth, if a fire starts," NWS said, as CNN reported. "Have your go back ready."

PG&E's response to these conditions comes after it has been found responsible for 2018's Camp Fire, the deadliest and most destructive fire in the state's history. Even before that determination, PG&E filed for bankruptcy in January because it faced so many lawsuits for wildfire damages.

Survivors of the Camp Fire, which scorched the town of Paradise, were skeptical of PG&E's action now.

"I understand their concerns but in my opinion it's too little too late, we already had our town burned to the ground," Ben Humphries, who lost his Paradise home in the Camp Fire and now lives in Oroville, told The Associated Press.

Another Paradise survivor, Jennifer Siemens, who also now lives in Oroville, questioned whether the shutoff was really the best solution.

"What's wrong with the power lines that they have to do this so much?" she asked The Associated Press. "We don't want any more fires, obviously, but I feel like they are going a little overboard."

Ultimately, the question is whether PG&E is capable of safely delivering power as the climate crisis makes wildfires more likely, The San Francisco Chronicle said.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the utility had no choice in this instance, but also needed to upgrade in order to avoid situations like this in the future.

"No one is satisfied with this, no one is happy with this," he said, as The Associated Press reported.

The shutoff will impact 34 counties across the state and eight of nine counties in the Bay Area, according to The San Francisco Chronicle. Only San Francisco County itself will be spared.

So far, nearly 5,000 customers in Solano County have lost power, as have nearly 600 in Marin. The power outages will occur in stages north to south and were not supposed to impact the Bay Area until around noon Wednesday.

At one point, there was concern that the outages would close the Caldecott Tunnel on Highway 24 and the Devil's Slide tunnel on Highway 1 in San Mateo County, but generators were installed to keep them open, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system said train service would not be impacted by the outages, though some station escalators could lose power, CNN reported.

The news also sent Californians to the gas pump and the supermarket to stock up.

"We sold out of lanterns this morning. The shelf is completely empty," Howard Gibbs, the manager at an Ace Hardware in Lafayette, 20 miles east of San Francisco, told The Associated Press. "We've got just a few flashlights left, and we're down to our last couple of propane tanks, too."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

The European Investment Bank will stop lending for fossil fuel projects. ForgeMind Archimedia / CC BY 2.0

By Eoin Higgins

Climate activists celebrated Thursday the decision of the European Investment Bank to stop funding most oil and coal projects by 2021, part of a bid to be the world's first "climate bank."

Read More Show Less
Campaigners from Friends of the Earth Scotland gather to demand clean air in August 2015. MAVERICK PHOTO AGENCY / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Air pollution particles from motor vehicle exhaust have been linked to brain cancer for the first time, researchers at McGill University in Montreal say.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A measure that would fine parents who refuse to vaccinate their children passed Germany's parliament Thursday. Self Magazine / CC BY 2.0

A measure that would fine parents who refuse to vaccinate their children for measles close to $2,800 passed Germany's parliament Thursday, the Associated Press reported.

Read More Show Less
A flooded St. Mark's square (Piazza San Marco) during a new exceptional high tide on Nov. 15 in Venice, Italy. Simone Padovani / Awakening / Getty Images

The historic "acqua alta" that swamped Venice Tuesday night also flooded the Veneto regional council for the first time, just moments after it had apparently rejected measures to address the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
Micromobility is the future of transportation in cities, but cities and investors need to plan ahead to avoid challenges. Jonny Kennaugh / Unsplash

By Carlo Ratti, Ida Auken

On the window of a bike shop in Copenhagen, a sign reads: Your next car is a bike.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
An American flag waves in the wind at the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco, California on May 17 where a trial against Monsanto took place. Alva and Alberta Pilliod, were awarded more than $2 billion in damages in their lawsuit against Monsanto, though the judge in the case lowered the damage award to $87 million. JOSH EDELSON / AFP / Getty Images

By Carey Gillam

For the last five years, Chris Stevick has helped his wife Elaine in her battle against a vicious type of cancer that the couple believes was caused by Elaine's repeated use of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide around a California property the couple owned. Now the roles are reversed as Elaine must help Chris face his own cancer.

Read More Show Less
Butterfly habitats have fallen 77 percent in the last 50 years. Pixabay / Pexels

The last 50 years have been brutal for wildlife. Animals have lost their habitats and seen their numbers plummet. Now a new report from a British conservation group warns that habitat destruction and increased pesticide use has on a trajectory for an "insect apocalypse," which will have dire consequences for humans and all life on Earth, as The Guardian reported.

Read More Show Less
Six of the nineteen wind turbines which were installed on Frodsham Marsh, near the coal-powered Fiddler's Ferry power station, in Helsby, England on Feb. 7, 2017.

Sales of electric cars are surging and the world is generating more and more power from renewable sources, but it is not enough to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to stop the global climate crisis, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Read More Show Less