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Utility Will Bury 10,000 Miles of Power Lines So They Don’t Spark Wildfires : NPR – Stay Current News
  • August 5, 2021

Utility Will Bury 10,000 Miles of Power Lines So They Don’t Spark Wildfires : NPR

Pacific Gas & Electric plans to bury 10,000 miles of its power lines to prevent sparks that can start forest fires. Jeff Chiu / AP Hide caption

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Jeff Chiu / AP

Pacific Gas & Electric plans to bury 10,000 miles of its power lines to prevent sparks that can start forest fires.

Jeff Chiu / AP

SAN RAMON, Calif .– Pacific Gas & Electric plans to bury 10,000 miles of its power lines to prevent its fraying network from igniting forest fires when electrical equipment collides with millions of trees and other vegetation through drought-stricken California.

The disheartening project announced on Wednesday aims to bury about 10% of the PG&E Distribution and transmission lines with an estimated cost of $ 15 billion to $ 30 billion, depending on how much the process currently costs. The utility believes it will find ways to keep the final bill at the lower end of these estimates. Most of the costs are likely to be borne by PG&E customers, whose electricity tariffs are already some of the highest in the US

The forest fires in the west affect people 3,000 miles away

PG&E pleads guilty to the 2018 California bonfire:

PG&E stepped up its safety commitment just days after regulators were informed that a 70-foot pine that fell on one of its power lines started a major fire in Butte County, the same rural area about 245 miles northeast of San Francisco where Another fire from its equipment in 2018 killed more than 80 people and destroyed thousands of homes.

Since its outbreak on July 13 in a remote area of ​​Butte County, the Dixie Fire has moved northeast through the Sierra Nevada. As of Wednesday, the fire spread over 133 square miles, forcing the Plumas County sheriff on Wednesday to order evacuations along the west bank of popular Lake Almanor.

The Saddleridge Fire in Sylmar, California in 2019. David Swanson / AP Hide caption

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David Swanson / AP

The Saddleridge Fire in Sylmar, California in 2019.

David Swanson / AP

The backlash against PG & E’s possible liability for the Dixie Fire prompted the company’s recently appointed CEO, Patricia “Patti” Poppe, to present the plan for subway lines a few months ahead of schedule.

Previous PG&E regimes have strongly opposed plans to bury long power lines because of the massive costs involved.

But Poppe told reporters Wednesday that after joining PG&E in January, she quickly realized that laying pipes underground is the best way to protect both the utility and the 16 million people it comes with Be supplied with electricity.

“It’s too expensive not to do it. Lives are at stake,” Poppe told reporters.

SoCal Edison trucks arrive at the location of a transformer tower in Sylmar, California that is suspected of starting the Saddleridge fire. Christian Monterrosa / AP Hide caption

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Christian Monterrosa / AP

SoCal Edison trucks arrive at the location of a transformer tower in Sylmar, California that is suspected of starting the Saddleridge fire.

Christian Monterrosa / AP

PG&E only said that burying the lines would take several years.

However, a quantum leap is required to get the job done within the next decade. In the few areas where PG&E has already buried power lines, about 123 kilometers are traveled annually.

PG&E expects to bury more than 1,600 kilometers of power lines annually, said its chief operating officer Adam Wright. While Wright compared the project to the Marshall Plan, which helped rebuild Europe after World War II, Poppe cited President John F. Kennedy’s 1962 promise to land the United States on the moon.

PG & E’s path to this point has been littered with death and destruction.

After previous executives allowed its equipment to deteriorate in an ostensible attempt to increase profits and management bonuses, the utility’s electrical grid was blamed for igniting a series of devastating forest fires in 2017 and 2018, causing the company to end in 2019 To file for bankruptcy.

A helicopter drops water on a fire on San Bruno Mountain near Brisbane, California in 2019. Jeff Chiu / AP Hide caption

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Jeff Chiu / AP

A helicopter drops water on a fire on San Bruno Mountain near Brisbane, California in 2019.

Jeff Chiu / AP

Butte County’s largest fire erased the entire city of Paradise and resulted in PG&E pleading guilty to 84 negligent homicide crimes last year, just weeks before it emerged from one of the most complex cases in US history.

As part of its bankruptcy, PG&E set up a $ 13.5 billion trust fund to pay the victims of its past wildfires, but that fund is facing a deficit of approximately $ 2 billion as half of its Money should come from company stocks that lagged behind in the market.

Since going bankrupt, PG&E has also been reprimanded by California’s electricity regulators and a federal judge overseeing its criminal probation obligations for breaking promises to reduce the dangers of trees near its power lines. The utility company has also been charged with another round of arson crimes, which it denies commission.

Poppe insisted that things get better this year under a plan that requires PG&E to spend $ 1.4 billion to remove more than 300,000 trees and prune another 1.1 million. However, she acknowledged that the utility is “not making enough progress” as it is only a fraction of the 8 million trees within range of its power lines.

But she also defended PG & E’s handling of the tree that may have caused the Dixie Fire and its response. The tree looked healthy and was about 12 feet away from power lines, she said, which posed a low risk hazard.

When a PG&E troubleshooter was sent out to investigate a potential problem, it noticed that the tree had fallen and possibly started a fire in a treacherous area that it tried to put out before the firefighters arrived.

“You can’t call his efforts less than heroic,” said Poppe.

Jack

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