Is PG&E Move To Turn Off Power To Reduce The Risk Of Wildfire Justified?

By Sharon McNary, AIR TALK - KPCC 89.3 FM Pasadena, CA

October 15, 2018

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Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) announced that it will begin proactively turning off power for safety as part of a Public Safety Power Shutoff in portions of several Northern California communities.

To help reduce the risk of wildfire during extreme winds and keep PG&E customers and their homes safe, the company will first turn off power in extreme fire-risk areas. The move will affect a total of about 70,000 customers in Sierra Foothills communities. When the extreme weather has passed and conditions are safe, PG&E crews will visually inspect the lines for any necessary repairs and safely restore power to customers.

Most customers are expected to be restored by Monday night, with some outages potentially lasting into Tuesday. In addition to notifying customers directly, PG&E will provide outage updates and information through social media, local news, radio, and the website. We discuss what are the criteria natural gas and electric energy companies consider in making a decision to turn off power. Is a utility company justified in turning off power to its customers? We debate.

With files from the Associated Press


Melissa Subbotin, spokesperson for Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E)

Sharon McNary, KPCC's infrastructure correspondent; she tweets @KPCCsharon

Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, a California-based nonprofit organization; he tweets @RaisingHellNow