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Controlled outages may be on the way as PG&E settles cases

Posted at 7:28 AM, Sep 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-23 21:27:48-04

UPDATE (4:30 p.m.) - Southern California Edison is considering proactively shutting off power to 41,000 customers to minimize the threat of wildfires amid forecasts of gusty Santa Ana winds.

The utility quadrupled the size of the potential shutdown Monday after initially estimating just over 10,000 customers could be impacted.

Major increases are focused on San Bernardino and Riverside counties in the inland region. Power cuts could also occur to the west in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties.

In Santa Barbara County, that includes the area from Gaviota to Point Conception. For the latest information on planned SoCal Edison power outages and to sign up for alerts, click here.

In Northern California, Pacific Gas & Electric has significantly scaled down pre-emptive outages to about 21,000 customers - about a fifth of the original estimate.

At 5 p.m. Monday, PG&E expects to turn off power to customers in certain communities of Butte, Nevada and Yuba counties. Click here for the latest on PG&E outages.

The utilities are trying to avoid disastrous fires linked to power infrastructure being damaged during windy, dry conditions.

(7:28 a.m.) - Pacific Gas & Electric may cut power to more than 100,000 Californians because of hot, dry and windy conditions even as it settles claims from the deadly Northern California wildfires of 2017 and 2018.

The San Francisco utility will make the decision before noon Monday on whether the controlled power outages are needed to reduce the risk of wildfires. The outages in nine northern counties would begin later in the day. The areas potentially impacted include portions of Butte, El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Sutter and Yuba counties in the Sierra foothills and Lake, Napa and Sonoma counties in the North Bay.

An estimated 124,000 people would be effected.

Earlier this month, PG&E agreed to pay $11 billion to insurance companies holding 85% of the insurance claims from fires that include the November 2018 blaze that destroyed the town of Paradise, killing 86 people. It does not include thousands of uninsured and underinsured fire victims who have filed their own claims against PG&E, including for wrongful deaths.

It is important for PG&E to pull itself from under bankruptcy protection because it will be a big part of a state wildfire fund set up to help California’s major utilities pay out future claims as climate change makes wildfires across the U.S. West more frequent and severe

The utility sought bankruptcy protection in January because it said it could not afford an estimated $30 billion in potential damages from lawsuits stemming from the catastrophic wildfires.

The settlement confirmed Monday is subject to bankruptcy court approval.