Lawmakers question possible PG&E power shutoffs during wildfires


SACRAMENTO (KRON) — A contentious hearing was held Wednesday on utility power shut offs for lawmakers representing areas constantly under wildfire threat.

“We can no longer afford to discover our failures with more fire events in the state of California,” said Sen. Jeff Stone (R-La Quinta).

State lawmakers grilled PG&E on how the utility plans to handle public safety power shut offs when there’s a serious wildfire risk.

A senate committee held the hearing with concerns about how de-energizing electric lines during fire threat could impact first responders and others who need a constant power source.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo told senators he’s worried about the influx of 911 calls.

“Those 911 calls would be made into overloaded networks and ultimately lost and even worse still, with an extended duration of six, 12 or more hours, that cell towers will essentially shut down,” the Mayor said.

Some lawmakers say they have trouble trusting PG&E as the utility goes through bankruptcy for its role in devastating fires.

“I also don’t buy the argument that PG&E as an investor-owned utility that is responsible to its shareholders that it’s just focused on safety and it’s not about PG&E’s bottom line,” said Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco).

PG&E officials say safety is the company’s priority and that it’s working to improve transparency issues.

“We own it, I own it, all the things you said, I own it. I’m making a commitment that we’ll do everything we can to ensure we’re satisfying the needs.”

Lawmakers hope the power shut offs are a temporary measure.

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