Oct 26, 2019

California lawmakers have little control over PG&E blackouts

Gov. Gavin Newsom surveys a home destroyed in the Kincade fire on Oct. 25. Photo: Karl Mondon/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

PG&E, which has temporarily shut the power off for millions of Californians ahead of weather forecasts ripe for wildfires, refused to give rebates to customers affected by the lack of electricity, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Why it matters: Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday that California would hold PG&E accountable for failing to do its job in the wake of fires burning through the state. But PG&E is ultimately calling the shots, per the Times. California lawmakers are out of session until January. Without a special legislative session, the issue won't be addressed until then.

  • "Millions of Californians can do little more than watch as the lights go off, then on and maybe back off again during the blustery autumn of 2019," the Times reports.
  • PG&E CEO Bill Johnson said in response to Newsom's statement that it's too soon to know the cause of the Kincade fire — currently the largest in California — or where it started.
  • An investigation is ongoing, per CNN.

Background: Johnson said it could be a decade before the company has made enough improvements to its electric infrastructure to prevent pre-emptive blackouts, which aim to prevent wildfires during high-wind periods and dry spells.

  • PG&E was deemed responsible for causing California's deadliest fire, which took 85 lives and burned thousands of homes and businesses in 2018.

Go deeper: California's multiplying wildfires

Go deeper

PG&E returns power to most California customers, but thousands remain in the dark

Restaurant owners use candles and a flashlight in Sonoma, California, Oct. 9. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small/AFP via Getty Images

PG&E said Thursday it restored power to nearly 328,255 customers since the Oct. 29 weather "all clear" was given for areas in northern and central California, though 36,745 customers remain without power.

The big picture: PG&E faces an investigation by the California Public Utilities Commission over its series of power shutoffs, which have affected millions and aimed to prevent the spread of wildfires during high-wind periods and dry spells. There are currently 15 fires spreading throughout California, per the Los Angeles Times.

Go deeperArrowOct 31, 2019

2 dead in Mexico's Baja California peninsula from wildfires

A burning structure collapses during the Kincade fire in Geyserville, California on Oct. 24. Photo: REUTERS/Stephen Lam TPX Images of the Day

At least 58,000 acres have burned in California from 14 ongoing fires, the earliest of which sparked in September, the Los Angeles Times reports. Five of those fires started Thursday, and one began Friday.

What's happening: The Kincade fire, which started Thursday and has already blazed through 21,900 acres — namely in Northern California’s wine country — is currently the largest fire in the state. 50,000 people near the Tick fire in Santa Clarita were ordered to evacuate on Friday, and California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in the counties affected by those two wildfires.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Oct 26, 2019

California's growing local push to overhaul PG&E

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Nearly two dozen California mayors and county leaders — including San Jose and Sacramento — are pressing state regulators to help them transform the embattled, bankrupt power giant PG&E into a customer-owned cooperative.

Why it matters: Their new letter to the California Public Utilities Commission shows how PG&E's power shutdowns amid wildfire risk and overall performance are prompting calls for a seismic re-think of its structure.

Go deeperArrowNov 6, 2019