California opens investigation into PG&E after millions were left without power

California regulators voted unanimously Wednesday to investigate utility PG&E over multiple planned power shut-off events in the state last month, to assess whether it is appropriately balancing the need to provide safe and reliable service when initiating the outages.

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The evaluation will provide a comprehensive review of the effectiveness and impact of the power shutoff events – which were intended as a precaution to prevent equipment from starting fires.

Regulators and Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom have expressed concern that the utility is not using the shut-offs as a last resort.

“It is important for the CPUC to determine if the utilities complied with using Public Safety Power Shut-offs as a last resort, and to collect the knowledge gained towards any revisions needed for next year,” California Public Utilities Commissioner Genevieve Shiroma said in a statement. “It is essential that our protocols and the utilities’ practices provide the best service and protections for customers in the face of wildfires.”

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In a statement to FOX Business, a PG&E spokesperson said the utility has taken suggestions it has received from regulators, Newsom’s office, state agencies and customers, seriously.

“While we recognize that the scope of these events is unsustainable in the long term, it was the correct decision for safety given the large-scale, historic weather,” the spokesperson added.

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Millions of people were without power — some for several days — as a result of multiple planned power shutoffs last month amid windy weather conditions that stoked fears about igniting new wildfires.

Newsom said at the end of October that the utility would begin crediting customers who had their service disrupted. Newsom has also said that 2019 has not been a particularly bad year for fires compared to previous years.

PG&E filed for bankruptcy in January in a bid to relieve itself of billions of dollars in liabilities stemming from lawsuits over deadly fires in the state that’s its equipment allegedly helped start in both 2017 and 2018.

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