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Opinion

Letters to the Editor: Power outages in high winds are what we get from for-profit utilities

PG&E
A traffic cone sits next to a Pacific Gas & Electric truck on Jan. 17 in Fairfax, Calif.
(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

To the editor: Yes, downed or damaged power lines can cause wildfires. But so can lightning, discarded cigarettes, disabled vehicles, campfires, arson and a host of other causes. Still, we have given the utilities virtually unlimited power to shut off the electricity for millions of people during a “wind event.” (“Unprecedented power outages begin in California as winds bring critical fire danger,” Oct. 9)

While there may be times when this action is needed, shouldn’t there be more oversight?

The utility companies don’t want to be sued when a downed power line causes a wildfire. Common sense suggests that the companies’ executives will err on the side of extreme caution whenever there is a remote possibility that high winds will damage a power line. Sure, they will lose some revenue during the outage, but that is minuscule compared with the losses they may sustain from a fire found to be their fault.

What is happening right now to Pacific Gas & Electric customers in Northern California is just plain wrong.

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John Tickner, Bell Canyon

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To the editor: Part of the electric grid in the richest country in the world with supposedly the most robust infrastructure has to shut down because of high winds? Why are so many of our power lines still above ground?

Virtually every service our society depends on, fire and police departments for example, are run by local governments. But many of our utilities continue to be operated by private corporations, which while highly regulated are still beholden to stockholders.

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As a result, these utilities must balance the need to provide the most modern services, requiring capital expenditures, against providing returns to their shareholders.

Utilities should instead be owned and run by local communities with only the customers’ best interest in mind.

John Goodman, Oak Park

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To the editor: I am a liberal Democrat, but my confidence in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s leadership is eroding. His support for mass blackouts is ill-considered.

Whatever the threat is from wildfires, shutting down power for more than a few minutes is not something the people of California will stand for. Access to electric power touches all aspects of our lives. You want to bring Republicans and Democrats together? Shut off their power.

Newsom already watered down a bill on mandatory vaccinations, and now he thinks Californians will accept a cave-dweller lifestyle during high-wind events. There are so many security and safety consequences of communities “operating” without power that the mind boggles thinking of them.

Ray McKown, Torrance

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To the editor: During outages people are forced to turn to alternative sources of light and power.

One misused candle or generator can also spark a disastrous blaze. How many people will be injured or die because they must drive on unlighted streets without working traffic signals?

Ah, but the power companies will avoid responsibility. How Trumpian of them.

Betty Rome, Culver City


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