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PG&E sends out letters warning of possible power shutoff during fires

Posted at 5:48 PM, Jun 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-05 22:02:09-04

Some people are sounding off about letters they got from PG&E stating the utility will shut off power in cases of extreme weather or fires.

While some say this is an egregious use of the company’s power, others are confident PG&E is doing the right thing.

More than just homeowners are getting these letters. Businesses and even city governments across California have received them.

“When I received the letter at first I thought, is this real? It’s kinda ridiculous. I think (PG&E) is going to make us go through the consequences of no electricity for potentially their incompetence,” said Orcutt resident Louie Franco.

This move is a safety measure by the power company after recent fires have been sparked by PG&E lines.

In a statement, the company tells KSBY:

“PG&E’s most important responsibility is the safety of our customers and communities we serve. We know how much our customers rely on electric service and turning off power in the interest of safety when extreme fire danger conditions are forecasted is not a decision made lightly. The CPUC’s actions address critical issues pertaining to Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) in advance of wildfire season.

In response to the rapidly changing environmental conditions in our state, PG&E has expanded its program to include all electric lines that pass through high fire-threat areas – both distribution and transmission.

We will reach out to customers and communities in advance of a PSPS, when possible, so they can take steps to prepare. The devastating wildfires of the past two years have made it overwhelmingly clear that more must be done, and with greater urgency, to adapt and address the growing threat of wildfires and extreme weather facing our state.”

Neighbors like Peter Brinkerhoff say they agree with the decision.

“It’s a small price to pay, to lose some perishable food, if it means somebody living through what they may not have before,” Brinkerhoff said.

Arguments aside, a power shutoff can be extremely detrimental to businesses like P.E.T.S Hospital in Orcutt, which says generators can’t duplicate the amount of power they need for some of their equipment.

“Basic life-saving equipment – defibrillators, x-ray machines, laboratory equipment – it all requires power,” said Dr. Joel Conn, owner of P.E.T.S Hospital.

Dr. Conn says they’re looking into investing in new technology like a Tesla power wall but it’s a hefty cost for a small business.

“Can we justify that expense as a small business on the off chance that at some point that we need it and I think it’s becoming more and more clear that we don’t have a choice,” Dr. Conn said.

The City of Santa Maria has also received this letter from PG&E. A city spokesperson tells KSBY they are meeting with the company next week to discuss the city’s role in the event of a shutoff.

PG&E owes at least $30 billion as a result of the 2017 and 2018 wildfire seasons. It’s believed the company’s equipment caused the fire in Paradise that killed over 80 people.