Northern, Central California Suffer Sweeping PG&E Blackouts

PG&E blackouts (Brittany Hosea-Small / Getty)
Brittany Hosea-Small / Getty

Households and businesses across northern and central California suffered blackouts on Wednesday — and are bracing for more on Thursday, as the Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) company shut down portions of its power grid due to weather conditions that could lead to wildfires.

Wildfires are endemic to California’s Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters. Power lines through forest or brush create additional fire risks.

Last year’s catastrophic Camp Fire — the deadliest in the state’s history, which wiped out much of the town of Paradise in mere minutes — is thought to have been sparked by a problematic power line in windy, dry conditions.

The outages were expected to affect as many as 700,000 customers for several days, closing schools and businesses. In some places, that meant water systems that rely on electricity for pumping and drainage could also be shut down.

The Los Angeles Times editorial board cautioned against blaming PG&E alone, however, listing several causes:

It wasn’t PG&E officials who approved housing developments in high-risk areas. In fact, the utility can’t say no to serving those homes, no matter how great the fire risk. The utility also doesn’t make decisions about how the vegetation around their customers’ houses and the forests nearby are managed. Nor is it the utility’s fault that human-caused climate change has created conditions that fuel massive wildfires. That’s a disgrace we all own.

There is no scientific link between climate change and the recent wildfires, though many scientists believe a warmer, drier California resulting from climate change could make the risk of wildfires greater than it is today.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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