PG&E -Threatening our Safety Pt 2

The California Public Utilities Commission has full State Constitutionally-defined authority to regulate all utilities, with the mandate to assure a safe and reliable system. Sadly, the CPUC has again failed to question PG&E’s fundamental methods and priorities -- despite the Wildfire Safety Division’s extraordinarily in-depth analysis of PG&E’s Wildfire Mitigation Plan that found literally hundreds of disturbing issues. “Approval, with Conditions” was the decision. PG&E sets the plan of action, no matter how flawed.

Thus, PG&E will spend billions of dollars removing 120 million trees in the next three decades (that’s 4 million trees a year), in an expensive attempt to reduce wildfire, having chosen this method without environmental impacts assessment, without actual proof that it works.  Instead of prioritizing the immediate wire replacement and system upgrading needed, they are actively removing thousands of trees as if that will work. Is it OK to take 1,000 years to upgrade the system while inflicting significant environmental destruction?

PG&E was convicted of six federal felonies for causing the deadly San Bruno gas pipeline explosion, and obstructing the investigation. The New York Times called this the result of PG&E’s profit-motivated run-to-failure business model. Finding a dramatic diversion, PG&E chose to focus on removing trees to “protect the pipelines,” and now again to “prevent wildfires.” The CPUC’s own Office of Safety Advocates questioned that ignitions would be reduced. Focusing on improvements to the electric system, however would prevent ignitions, not just from random wind-blown branches or fallen trees, but from all other causes -- from balloons to animals — and replacing those thousands of explosive fuses that spew molten metal would be helpful too.

What can we do as residents and property owners? We can call or email our local County Supervisor and State Assembly Members and Senators, the Governor, and our local fire departments, business associations and Citizens Emergency Response Training (CERT) members. Ask them to mandate infrastructure improvements (specifically replacing bare wire with strong, insulated conductor, installing modern computerized circuit breakers and replacing fuses), and to focus on the legally required, “regular” vegetation management (a 4-foot radial trim around the wires, to last a year), since PG&E will have a far better chance of meeting that goal than they will have trying to remove millions of trees. 

 

Nancy Macy, Felton

 

As a resident of the town of Felton in the Santa Cruz Mountains, at very high risk of wildfires, I urge you to mandate that PG&E update their above-ground wiring from bare conductors to insulated and install computerized circuit breakers to disconnect power to arcing conductors.

Homeowners and contractors are required to install arc-fault circuit interrupters and heat resistant insulated conductors to prevent fires in homes.  Why is PG&E not required to use the best technology available in their system?

The cost in lives and damage to our environment of allowing PG&E to rely on low-tech “solutions,”  such as cutting down trees is huge.  Removing trees contributes to warming, and thus increases wildfire danger.  Creating wind tunnels around distribution lines promotes the spread of embers.

Shutting off power to millions of customers in anticipation of high heat and wind episodes rather than selectively de-energizing local grids in response to actual faults before that fault can start a fire forces homeowners, grocery stores, water departments and fire departments to shoulder the cost of generators, which diminish air quality but are necessary to preserve perishable food and provide water for life and to fight fires.

Please use every tool at your disposal to require that PG&E upgrade their distribution system to incorporate modern methods and materials that will avoid unnecessary power interruptions while protecting lives and equipment.

Cynthia Dzendzel, Felton

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