Californias Wildfire Problem Goes Beyond PG&E

Automatic TRANSCRIPT

From Connecticut to California Mississippi to Minnesota millions of American businesses are using Google tools to grow online the growth Google Initiative sports small businesses by providing free digital skills workshops and one on one coaching in all fifty states helping businesses get online connected new customers and work more productively learn more at Google dot com slash grow that's google dot com slash grow when Tehran Luna thinks about the time she spent in the Napa Valley last month she can still hear the wind it's very loud would wins or whipping through the town right there's moments where it dies down and then it comes back last tweak if you watched videos California wildfire spreading you could hear these gusts up to ninety six six models and our crabs and that whole time you're just thinking what is this doing to the fire where's this pushing the fire are people being evacuated people understand that they have to leave for the taking taking evacuation orders seriously taryn reports for the La Times went to snow to cover the kincaid fire she she watched is fifty thousand residents were told to evacuate their homes many of the people who weren't being evacuated we're having their power shut off to avoid sparking being more fires you're in cinema with the governor and I'm wondering what his interactions were like with people on the ground trying to figure out what they do when I was within the day with him he went to a mobile home park that had been warned four hours prior to an outage that they were going to lose power through the state you're supposed to be getting twenty four to forty eight hours notice lease so these people were warned you know four hours before no these are elderly clearly people so one of the guys spoke with ninety three years old when you think about Cinema County maybe you picture a vineyard wine country but unless casinos this mobile home park many residents are on fixed incomes and when the power goes out the can't afford to empty out their fridges one eighty seven year old woman Tehran she relies on the power company to keep her breathing machine going at night just the wobble of interest from people like that like the eighty seven year old woman uh-huh was telling me about how the state needed to invest in more micro grids right up the water reporters don't fully understand micro grids but we have an eighty seven year old woman here talking Komo micro grids and why the state needs to do it so it's really fascinating to me to see the level of kind of understanding interest from from everyday people across the state because because they know what's at stake in most importantly they knew how it's affecting their wives powers one of the most basic things we expect right I mean if your garbage is picked up it's a political problem if you don't have power that's a political problem and people really feel it it's not just is something that happens to someone else when you lose power for three or four days I mean that's controlling your entire life today on the show we're going to talk about all the ways these fires are controlling Californians lives watching the crises pile up the fires themselves the utility companies response it's making people in California angry the question is what can be done with all that anger and I'm Mary Harris you're listening to what next stick with us this episode is sponsored by Sikora. If you're feeling a little rundown it's getting dark outside almost winter maybe you need to shift your diet a little bit here's the thing that happens to me though I'm always trying to eat healthy because it makes me feel better but it's never easy chopping up all the vegetables making sure I like make a salad before I come to work each day which is why I tried out Sikora Sikora makes organic ready to eat meals with nutritious delicious plant based ingredients their meals are specifically designed enhancer enhancer energy improve digestion and help with healthy weight loss along with your meals you get supplements tease even support from a certified health coach to help I'll be stay on track. Cigar has gotten rave reviews from Vogue from the New York Times and more and right now cars offering our listeners sixty bucks off their first order her car dot com slash what next that's Kara S. A. K. A. R. A. dot com slash next to get sixty bucks off your first order Sikora dot com slash next Taron spends a lot of her time reporting on California's Governor Gavin newsom she's followed followed him as he's gone out to talk to residents about the seasons fires and she's watched as his approach changes especially as more and more of his constituents experience rolling power outages we've seen him shift a little bit with public sentiment so we had an outage in early October and it was the first major major outage of the year where we had I think nearly two hundred thousand people affected at the time it was the largest ever and prior to that in the two days leading up to that he was is trying to assure Californians that this was part of the new normal that we had to shut off power to prevent wildfires it wasn't ideal utilities had handled the managing managing their systems appropriately partially led us to this moment but it was something we had to learn door I don't think they're making a mistake as it relates to proactive professors to mitigate the prospect of fires I think that's the right decision then they sit ups happened and people were upset that they didn't get enough notification they're upset that their power was out so I think it went from something that people expected but then in the moment when it's reality you can't rely on power which you have for so long it changes how you feel about the situation and people were very upset at pg any then the governor had a press conference prince where he just blasted PGA saying corporate greed that let us here it was entirely their fault does unacceptable in there couldn't be the new normal we should not have to be here years and years of greed years and years of mismanagement particularly with the largest investor on utility in the State of California the G Eddy they simply did not do their job it took us decades you saw him really come out and take a different stance against P. Jeannie as people were growing more and more frustrated PG any Pacific gas and electric backtrack it's the state's largest utility company and there's no doubt this company behaved badly earlier this year tearing me a map showing all the fires that pgn any had sparked over a three year period she plotted out more than fifteen hundred of them now some are just bought fires in there put out but some of the deadliest fires we've seen in California cornea been linked to utility equipment we can't fire last year you know more nearly ninety people died and that was tied to a transmission line what's a transmission line failure failure for people who don't know so transmission lines are the larger lines that carry typically carry power from a plant to a substation and distribution in lines carry that power into people's homes in neighborhoods right so it's a big line it's a big line and shutting off big lines means a lot more the people lose power so the after the campfire PG knee said that their policy at the time was to cut off distribution lines the smaller wines take power directly we to customers and not transmission line so their argument was even if we had shut off power we would have left the transmission line on and we still could have been in the same scenario race now this causes a number of problems in concern among experts in the state because transmission lines for a long time we're considered safer they're larger they have to be inspected more and we didn't expect to have as many problems with transmission lines with this latest fire that can kate fire up in snohomish county appea- genie reported an issue with the transmission line near the time in location where the wildfire started now that's not to say definitively that the wildfire was started their equipment right but it's not looking good it's not looking good and so I was talking to a professor of the other day who is to simply pointing out that if we can't even trust transmission shen lines in the state of California than in these heavy wind conditions transmission lines also have to be shut down and if we're shutting down transmission lines than that means thousands ends of more people are losing power in their homes so what solving one problem of potentially causing wildfire you then have another problem of a lot more people losing zing power. PG says making these power lines safer could take them a decade a lot of these lines are in rural communities surrounded by tender you'd have to hike in to cut some of the stuff down then airlifted out and that costs money money the utility company would eventually have to charge customers but raising customers electricity rates. PG has to ask permission to do that from California Public Utilities Commission the CPU see because the way California's law set up as if the utility is investing money in their infrastructure they can go recoup that money from ratepayers so any time that happens and they want to invest in infrastructure the C. p. c. has hearings the cult like a rate recovery case in you have repair advocates coming coming in speaking in saying Hey California customers can not afford to keep increasing rates and it's a fair argument there's plenty of people who are just on the cusp of affordability you have people who are retired fixed incomes they can't keep up they can't continue to afford this right so there's natural resistance in some ways in the state to allow utilities to do a lot of work on infrastructure because again that comes out of repair pockets so is there evidence that genie was avoiding line maintenance to sort sort of not have to go to the public and ask for more money I don't know that that is the case I can't speak to that but there's definitely been evidence that PG knee he said they were going to be doing work that they weren't or PG needs said they were doing certain vegetation clearing or or work on their infrastructure that hadn't actually happened so there's been you know over time a history of PG not being trustworthy in California no one seems to trust anyone here because no one wants to foot the bill for for these wildfires and the bill is huge after last year's campfire victims and insurance companies claimed pg any owed them tens of billions of dollars now the company is going through bankruptcy trying to limit its liability so I covered the governor and I color the wildfire policy in the state and the idea of how we pay for wildfires is fought ferociously across the street at the capital every year typically are you have you know insurers on one side you have utilities on the other you have wildfire victims in one corner you have cities and counties with some other interests it certain certain points you know they all kind of work together against each other depending on what the issue is but there's a lot of people a lot of different groups with financial stake here but it's striking to that no one is standing up in the middle of all this and saying stop everyone's just looking for another place to get the money and pushing pushing it forward right I mean I think there's I guess what we heard out of our last governor Jerry Brown was that climate change inge was the boogeyman right so this was all happening because the wets were getting wetter the dries we're getting drier the Hotz were getting hotter I think we've seen our new governor come come in and reiterate a lot of that but also make pg need the boogeyman so to speak right it's PG knees fault at the same time you know the State Utilities Commission has provided oversight a PG knee and knows what they were we're not doing hard in their infrastructure where approving a lot of this so I think there's blame to be shared across the board and I think part of the reason why you don't have somebody standing up and saying you know stop all of this is there's not a clear solution in California right now everyone can see the problem every year the winds come every year the utility companies helped spark these fires but when Taryn is walking looking around a mobile home park with the governor it's easy for her to see the lack of a solution seems to be hitting the most vulnerable Californians the hardest the people who have to live no wildfires path it's a really difficult conversation because it's getting more expensive to live in California's cities right we've seen that over time the cost of living his increase in increased in increase so for a lot of people the only place they can afford to live is in rural areas and so if we're cutting heading off some of that as an option then what are we doing remaking California less affordable to argue you know it's one of the most unaffordable states in the country already that conversation needs to be happening I'm sure it's happening in silos it probably needs to happen at a more statewide level with some more statewide leadership on the topic not brings us back to governor newsom what more can he be doing at this point you said he's putting a lot of pressure on the California Public Utilities Commission and that sounds good but are there other things he could be doing here to regulate the industry and maybe protect the state for more fire going forward forward sure and this wildfire season no the legislatures out so there can't be sitting around making laws at this point a lot of the laws that were passed passed this year don't take effect until the start of the year he can put pressure on the CPI pressure utilities but at the end of the day you know when it comes to power shut offs utilities are the ones making the call right in our wild fire prevention work while we've done some overtime we haven't done enough by a wad of measures there's there's more I'm sure the legislature could do in terms of wildfire prevention and really putting more resources into going out and in clearing vegetation Haitian in such or you know home hardening we haven't done a lot of investment in home hardening but there's a lot of issues we could do none of that's going to solve be solved this wildfire season Taryn Luna

Coming up next