Bruce Rayner: PG&E back in the news
Maybe it never left the news. After tearing our community apart, cutting trees needlessly in Nevada City to make a statement that they could, clearing wide swaths for pole lines that were never needed in the past, they have finally pushed California citizens to the breaking point.
You may not have kept track as we worry about wildfires this season. However, those fires that have been started by PG&E — Paradise, Zogg, Kincade and possibly Dixie — have gotten the attention of people who would like to see PG&E made responsible for those fires.
Because the fires were started by PG&E’s irresponsibility, they should somehow pay for the homes lost and damage done. The fact that many people died in those fires is not lost on us, but it apparently is lost on PG&E, which has found reasons why they don’t have to make reparations to those families.
While evidence shows that they are responsible for those fires, no court case is necessary to judge them. PG&E admits the blame blatantly, knowing that no harm will come to them. Coming down from the governor through the California Public Utilities Commission, all fines and levels of blame have been expunged from the records. How is that possible?
I’m one of the people who would like to know as PG&E raises my electric bill every month to pay for the legal costs of their liability, with permission from the governor. That means I now pay $.60 per kilowatt hour for my electricity. To put that into perspective, a home in Reno pays $.09 per kilowatt hour for all their air conditioning, laundry and so on. Just your PG&E bill can cut into your quality of life.
Who are the people investigating PG&E at this point? That would be the team at KXTV, Channel 10, in Sacramento. They even have a website to document their findings over the past three years, firepowermoney.com. They have sued the state and won access to documents that show how the corruption works.
You should stop reading now and read through their site to see just who is controlling our lives today. True, they are looking at the corruption and control from the vantage point of the center of the state. However, everything you’ve seen up here in the last three years, lost business due to PG&E blackouts, cutting our trees, raising our rates, is all explained right there. It’s far from done as the Dixie Fire brings more loss into focus.
You can also see why my opinion piece here is not just an opinion — there is much corruption in the state government, from the governor, the Legislature, the Public Utilities Commission and finally PG&E that needs an investigation. Because it involves our lives, quality of life and fear of a PG&E wildfire up here, I invite The Union staff to get involved, and keep us posted as the criminal case against PG&E proceeds.
To wind this up, I see things that won’t be solved by lawsuits, even breaking up PG&E. I have written on the need to prevent PG&E-caused fires from starting in the first place. The media will have the reasons why each fire was an accident. Or caused by this and that.
At the root, prevention is the answer. PG&E has an answer, underground the lines. What? Give me a break, that will take the next 50 years! We need something now before the next PG&E wildfire.
While too simple to be true, PG&E has the technology already installed that could be used for prevention. They refuse to use it as it would take retraining, changing the culture and repurposing the technology.
What is needed is to join the forces of PG&E, which expertly starts fires, with Cal Fire, which can expertly put them out, immediately, before they are larger than a bonfire. PG&E and Cal Fire (I’ve talked to both of them) say it can’t be done. Again it’s a culture thing. Now, I can relate to that problem: solving something that can’t be done.
I’d guess you’d need a court order to make that happen. However, my attorney suggests there’s good precedent for such action. In Southern California, construction companies are required to have Native American observers on site in the event a cultural site or artifacts are found.
That’s pretty close to my solution. I would have PG&E ordered to have a Cal Fire representative on duty in each regional control center during a red flag fire season. When a spark causes a line glitch seen at the center (instantly), Cal Fire would report it as suspicious, send a helicopter, dump a bucket of water on it.
To be clear, PG&E does check these things out, but reports submitted to the Public Utilities Commission for all the fires mentioned indicates it takes them hours or days to send a truck out, then maybe report it to Cal Fire. Meanwhile, towns burn down. Expensive, all that monitoring by Cal Fire? Let’s see, how much has the Dixie Fire cost to date?
Bruce Rayner is an engineering consultant in Nevada City.
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