Frustrated California Lawmakers Criticize PG&E Over Power Shutoffs

SACRAMENTO -- Pacific Gas and Electric embarked on its strategy of shutting down power lines to communities when there is a big wind event during high fire danger.

Downed power lines caused the devastating Camp Fire, among several other California wildfires.

But when the strategy was first used last October, it was a disaster of another sort. Communities were without power for days with no word of when power would be returned.

The information gap incensed lawmakers.

"You told a school district in the city of Lakeport that they would lose power. They canceled classes,” said Sen. Mike Mcguire, D-Healdsburg, on Wednesday. “The power never went off. It never went off.”

"If there are things that are not hitting the mark, help us identify what are those ways ... ," said Sumeet Singh, the vice president of PG&E's Community Wildfire Safety Program.

Sen. McGuire stopped Singh, asking him, "Why are you expecting us to provide you feedback when you all are the experts?”

"I own it. All the things that you said, I own it," Singh said.

PG&E says it now has devices to segment its grid to make power shutdowns more precise and more weather stations will make for better decisions on what areas need to be shut down.

In addition, the utility now has aerial tools for faster inspections of lines that are required before lines can be reenergized.

“We have much and far better capabilities going into this year,” Singh said.

Cities like San Jose still worry about the cost of alternative power during a shutdown.

"Police and fire stations, wastewater treatment plants, sewer pumps, airports and community centers that will be providing power for medical devices,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, said lawmakers and the public have a right to be skeptical of PG&E decisions.

"We're dealing with a company that diverted hundreds of millions of dollars from safety, from maintenance and operations to bonuses and profits,” he said.

But Hill also said he's never heard PG&E own any of its missteps.

“Those things, hopefully, have changed at PG&E,” Hill said.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.