PG&E Executives to Appear Before California Regulatory Board

Power shutdown has been criticized as poorly executed and unacceptable

 

FILE – In this Oct. 9, 2019, file photo, CVS Pharmacy shift supervisor James Quinn throws out ice cream from darkened freezers as downtown Sonoma, Calif., remains without power. Experts say it’s hard to know what might have happened had the power stayed on, or if the utility’s proactive shutoffs are to thank for California’s mild fire season this year. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

 

By JANIE HAR Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Top executives of California’s largest utility are expected at an emergency meeting Friday to answer hard questions by state regulators about a massive pre-emptive power shutdown last week that has been criticized as poorly executed and unacceptable.

See also  Wildfire Prompts Mandatory Evacuation of Washington Town

The meeting of the California Public Utilities Commission in San Francisco comes as outrage grows against Pacific Gas & Electric Co. The utility cut off power to more than 2 million people in northern and central California Oct. 9, saying that high wind forecasts could have damaged equipment and sparked wildfires.

In a pointed letter to PG&E chief executive Bill Johnson issued earlier this week, commission President Marybel Batjer scolded the utility for an “unacceptable situation” and ordered a series of corrective actions, including a goal of restoring power within 12 hours, not the utility’s current 48-hour goal.

She ordered the utility to audit its performance, outline corrective actions and demanded Johnson and others be at Friday’s meeting to answer questions.

See also  German Officials Close to Extinguishing Wildfire

In a response Thursday, Johnson said the utility understood the magnitude of the hardships the outages caused for customers and pledged to improve.

“At the same time, we ask our customers, their families and our local and state leaders to keep in mind the statistic that matters the most: there were no catastrophic wildfires,” he wrote.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has blasted the utility for what he called decades of mismanagement, underinvestment and lousy communication. On Thursday, the leader of the California Senate asked a committee to “begin investigating and reviewing options to address the serious deficiencies” with PG&E’s current process.

“The public understandably is outraged over the problems that arose with these shutoffs,” Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins wrote in a memo to the Senate Democratic Caucus. “We owe it to our constituents to act.”

See also  Efforts Failing to Save U.S. West Sagebrush Land

Johnson agreed one area that needs significant improvement is communicating with customers, who were left scrambling for information because of overloaded call centers and a website that frequently crashed.

He also pledged to develop maps providing updated estimates of affected areas; establish better communications with local governments; and take steps to minimize the impact of any future outages, particularly by prioritizing distribution and transmission lines that serve larger populations and critical infrastructure.

“We understand that the size and scope of this event is untenable in the long term,” he said.

PG&E said Monday its systems were damaged in more than 100 places — spots that could have been a potential source of ignition for a wildfire.

Wildfires in California are often caused by downed power lines and other utility equipment. A fire last year sparked by PG&E’s equipment mostly destroyed the town of Paradise and killed 85 people.

___

AP staff writer Adam Beam contributed reporting from Sacramento, California.

All contents © copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Topics

Subscribe to Our Monthly Newsletter

Stay in the loop with our wildland newsletter.

Power shutdown has been criticized as poorly executed and unacceptable     By JANIE HAR Associated Press SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Top executives of California’s largest utility are expected at an emergency meeting Friday to answer hard questions by state regulators about a massive pre-emptive power shutdown last week that has been criticized as poorly […]

Get The Wildland Firefighter Newsletter

Related Articles

ID Orders Evacuations as Wildland Fire Takes Off

ID Orders Evacuations as Wildland Fire Takes Off

By Kerri Sandaine Of The Tribune  -  Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Moscow, Idaho Jul. 17—A rapidly growing wildfire about 26 miles southwest of Clarkston kept firefighters from the Department of Natural Resources and other agencies busy throughout Tuesday and into the...

CA Reports First Wildfire Death of the 2024 Season As Fires Persist

CA Reports First Wildfire Death of the 2024 Season As Fires Persist

By RIO YAMAT and JANIE HAR Associated Press SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Wildfires fueled by strong winds and an extended heat wave have led to the first death in California of the 2024 season, while wind-whipped flames in Arizona have forced hundreds to flee from what tribal...