The Roundup

Oct 10, 2019

Going dark -- Part II


Bay Area braces for second wave of PG&E outages, as some customers regain power


From the Chronicle's PETER FIMRITE, JILL TUCKER and EVAN SERNOFFSKY: "Unprecedented power outages swept across Northern California on Wednesday as the fire-prevention strategy of a beleaguered utility darkened homes, closed schools and businesses and ignited mass frustration, even as more shut-offs loomed for hundreds of thousands of Bay Area residents as the day ended."


"The outages could last into next week, affect more than 2 million people and, by some estimates, cost businesses and residents more than $1 billion."


"Pacific Gas and Electric Co. initiated the blackouts to avoid a breakout of wind-driven wildfires from its power lines and equipment, and by Wednesday night the company had succeeded in bringing tens of thousands of customers back online. But for many residents and business owners, it was difficult to see beyond aggravation and anger."


READ MORE on power outage impact: Huge power outages show PG&E is ‘out of control,’ critics say -- J.D. MORRIS, Chronicle; ‘A cool billion’: Economists estimate PG&E outages could have big impact -- MALLORY MOENCH, CHronicleWhen the power goes out, so does the water in some places -- KURTIS ALEXANDER, ChronicleCalifornia politicians ripping PG&E: ‘The Wild West doesn’t work’ -- DUSTIN GARDINER, Chronicle


Californians fume over PG&E power outage: ‘A humongous inconvenience’


From the LAT's HANNAH FRY, PATRICK MCGREEVY, TARYN LUNA, MARIA L. LA GANGA, JACLYN COSGROVE: "Millions of Californians could spend days without power as the state’s largest utility continues shutting off electricity in a desperate attempt to avoid wildfires sparked by windblown power lines."


"The first power cutoffs, affecting about 513,000 Pacific Gas & Electric Co. customers, began shortly after midnight Wednesday in several counties around Sacramento, including Placer and Yuba. Roughly five hours later, the outages had extended to Humboldt County to the north, Marin County to the south and Nevada County to the east, according to a map provided by the utility."


"The second phase of the shut-off was expected to begin about noon in areas around Silicon Valley and the East San Francisco Bay Area, but the utility said those outages would be delayed until later in the day. About 234,000 customers in Alameda, Alpine, Contra Costa, Mariposa, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and parts of Mendocino and Calaveras counties were expected to lose power by the evening."


Newsom Simultaneously Backs Public Safety Power Shutoffs While Slamming PG&E


From Capital Public Radio's BEN ADLER: "With power outages poised to spread to 7 percent of his state’s population, California Governor Gavin Newsom is both supporting electric utilities’ decisions to turn the lights off and criticizing Pacific Gas and Electric."


“I don’t think they’re making a mistake, as it relates to proactive measures to mitigate the prospect of fires,” Newsom said at a bill signing ceremony in San Diego Wednesday. “I think that’s the right decision.”


"Yet Newsom also acknowledged the frustration of his constituents. He blamed Pacific Gas and Electric for putting the state in a situation where the blackouts were necessary."


Why Is This Happening? Answers to Your Questions on the PG&E Shutdown


From KQED: "Pacific Gas & Electric has generated confusion — even outrage — with its power grid shutdowns. The situation continues for a second day in 34 California counties. On social media and phone calls to Forum, people throughout PG&E’s service area have asked how and why the investor-owned utility took this step. KQED reporters have some answers."


"Why Is PG&E Turning The Power Off? Is This PG&E’s Fault?"


"Bottom line, PG&E doesn’t want to risk having its power lines start another fire, so it is pre-emptively turning the power off during this week’s dry, windy weather. The company made the decision based on information from its wildfire center, where meteorologists keep watch on fire conditions. PG&E’s power lines have sparked many catastrophic wildfires in California, including last year’s Camp Fire in Butte County that caused 86 deaths and burned 153,336 acres and 18,804 structures."


Why PG&E’s mass California power shut-off could last several days


From the Chronicle's J.D. MORRIS: "The power could be out for days."


"Scores of Northern California residents are preparing to lose power for an extended period because the company that provides their electricity chose to shut down its infrastructure so it doesn’t start yet another catastrophic wildfire during high winds and low humidity."


"And the forced outages could last long after the dangerous weather passes in some cases because Pacific Gas and Electric Co. says restoring its system is not as simple as flipping a switch. Every mile of power line must first be visually inspected from the air or ground through vehicle or foot patrols, according to PG&E."


Hedge funds a step closer to PG&E takeover. Bankruptcy judge opens up two-way fight


From the SacBee's DALE KASLER: "A judge turned the PG&E Corp. takeover fight into a free-for-all Wednesday, ruling that Wall Street hedge funds trying to seize control of the troubled California utility can begin pressing their case right away."


"In a major setback for Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and its parent, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Dennis Montali said the utility’s bondholders can start selling their corporate reorganization plan in direct competition with the company itself."


"The ruling came the same day PG&E came under intense criticism for launching a blackout covering more than 500,000 customers as high winds blanketed much of Northern California. The utility called the power outage a defensive move to prevent more fires."


Westwood is once again California’s priciest spot for renters, study finds


From the LAT's JACK FLEMING: "For the second straight year, Westwood ­— a Los Angeles neighborhood filled with students — is California’s most expensive place to rent an apartment."


"In the posh Westside neighborhood’s 90024 ZIP Code, renters pay an average of $4,944 a month, according to a new study from RentCafe, a listing service for apartments and homes. That’s a 4.1% leap compared with last year."


"At $4,944, Westwood rent ranks fourth in the country behind three areas in Manhattan. It’s also nearly $50 higher than the second priciest spot in California: West Hollywood’s 90048 ZIP Code, where the average rent is $4,896."


State will audit Inspire charter school network for alleged fraud


From the Union-Tribune's KRISTEN TAKETA: "A statewide group of county superintendents has requested a sweeping state audit to investigate potential fraud by the Inspire home charter school network."


"The superintendents say they have reason to believe Inspire engaged in fiscal malfeasance, conflicts of interest, manipulation of enrollment and revenue and other improper activity."


“The concerns regarding Inspire are pervasive across the state, and require immediate attention to prevent further waste of public education dollars and profiting off state apportionment not used to provide a complete and quality education to the students enrolled in the school,” six county superintendents wrote in a letter last week to the Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team, or FCMAT, the state agency that audits schools for fraud."


California jail inmates promised free medical visits under new law banning co-pays


From the SacBee's BRYAN ANDERSON: "California’s jails and prisons will soon offer free medical visits for all inmates, under a law Gov. Gavin Newsom signed on Tuesday."


"Assembly Bill 45, which will take effect at the start of 2020, will bar city and county jails from charging inmates a copayment in order for them to see a doctor or dentist. It will also prevent those jails from charging a fee for equipment or supplies that are medically necessary to an incarcerated person."


"The new law also applies to the state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which announced earlier this year it would no longer charge a $5 co-pay. Since 1994, the state corrections department had been able to charge $5 each time an inmate came in for a medical or dental visit. The fee would be added to the inmate’s prison account, and if the inmate had no available funds, there would be no charge."



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