Dear PG&E.

On June 13th, your nearby powerline came into contact with an old tree that leaned over into the line. Our lights at home blinked, then went dim. I rushed outside to turn off our pump motors, and switched our critical home loads to our generator. Then I called you and reported our emergency about 15 minutes after the brownout started. When I soon thereafter drove down our private road, my neighbors had gathered to observe the smoking tree making contact with your powerline. They had called 911 to alert the fire department.

Eventually, your trouble man arrived and opened the 40T fuses that feed our branch circuit. Our community narrowly averted a fire disaster! My open questions to PG&E include:

1. Why isn't this entire branch circuit using covered conductors (tree wire)? Tree wire is used up by my home.
2. Why isn't your nearby circuit recloser control using the best available technology for detecting arcing ground faults, just like we had on that morning?

In my opinion, PG&E should employ best practices for passive (tree wire) and active protection (Arc Sense Technology as found in SEL-651R recloser controls) against arcing faults that have the potential to ignite our dry forests.

Our neighborhood had a close call. If that tree had leaned over in the middle of the night, a serious wildland fire might have occurred. Thankfully the tree fell around 9:15 am.... and we were all awake and alert, and able to call you and 911 that we had a serious problem.

Greg Rauch, Ben Lomond

There’s an old Soviet joke about the time when Stalin ordered the great Marshal Zhukov, the Hero of Stalingrad, to arrange a vast rally which would be attended by every Soviet citizen in the entire Moscow region. Informed that, unfortunately, such a rally would not be feasible, Stalin instead ordered that the entire country be switched to daylight savings time.

More than a century and a half after Lincoln freed the slaves there are still apparently sharp limits to what our government can or is willing to do to insure that the descendants of those slaves and anyone who looks like them can compete on an equal footing for their fair share of our country’s resources. However Mark Stone, who represents the Santa Cruz area in the Assembly, seems to think that criminalizing the behavior of blinkered, naive individuals like Amy Cooper, who are insufficiently attuned to the viciously racialized politics of our time, would be a step in the right direction.

I disagree. If there ever was a time for “politics as usual,” this certainly isn’t it.

Seth Knoepler, Felton

PG&E Threatens Our Safety Part I

Recently, a PG&E spokesman boasted that, “So far this year, PG&E crews have cleared brush from 1,247 miles of power lines in high-risk areas, buried or hardened 118 more miles, installed 144 new weather stations and 61 remote cameras.” The many distorted or missing issues within that statement demonstrate how skilled PG&E is at hiding the real issues. 

 Looking at PG&E’s antiquated electric power lines, we all have good reason to worry about power outages, electrocutions and wildfire. Is the electric conductor (wire) along your street and to your house bare or insulated? What about around the corner? Bare conductor is far more common, especially the thousands of miles of deteriorated 6-gauge copper wire that was installed six or so decades ago. Bare wire is readily subject to breakage, arcing and sparking, causing power outages, igniting wildfires and threatening electrocution.

Such unsafe conductor (aka power lines/wires/cable) should have been replaced by now, especially in the Tier 2 and 3 high utility-associated wildfire areas (that’s us!), where there are about 2700 miles still to be “hardened” (replaced with insulated cable or put underground). Since our forested regions are primarily Tier 3, replacement conductor should be steel-core and triple-insulated, as Southern California Edison wisely decided -- guaranteeing safety for about 50 years. But unless mandated, it won’t be, in neither forest nor town. Even when the entire system burned down, brand new power poles have been strung with bare aluminum wire, as has happened in Paradise, while in upper Lompico where power poles are marked for replacement, a PG&E spokesperson indicated the aged copper wire would just be restrung.

Why worry? Because despite 84 counts of manslaughter and declaring bankruptcy, PG&E’s most recent (legislation-mandated) Wildfire Mitigation Plan (WMP), declares it will replace only 240 miles of unsafe wire this year throughout its entire system. (Where? With what type of wire?)

In addition, PG&E should have been installing thousands of computerized circuit breakers throughout its system – especially in forested areas. This equipment is available right now: tested, affordable, off-the-shelf models, from respected international companies. Imagine: power immediately cut to broken lines (no fire, no electrocution), and repair crews automatically notified where repair is needed. Instead, PG&E is spending hundreds of millions of dollars annually on their unproven, destructive Enhanced Vegetation Management (EVM), removing “any tree within striking distance” and limbing to the sky.

Nancy Macy, Chair, Environmental Committee for the SLV Valley Women’s Club

Justice for Jeremy

The severity of a criminal sentence is closely linked to the seriousness of the crime. However, because trials are risky and expensive, prosecutors frequently try to avoid them by offering the defendant a plea bargain - the opportunity to plead guilty to a less serious charge. It would be interesting to know whether reckless driving causing injury, the crime to which Jeremy Shreves pleaded guilty, was the most serious crime with which he could have been charged.

Seth Knoepler, Felton

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