Biden to fund California power grid upgrade in climate change push
Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) provides power to most of California and is one of the largest energy companies in the United States. However, PG&E’s equipment has been linked to several major wildfires, including two of the worst in the state’s history.
In November 2018, the Camp Fire—the deadliest fire in the state’s history—killed at least 86 people and destroyed 14,000 homes. The California Public Utilities Commission’s Safety and Enforcement Division (SED) report on the fire blamed poor maintenance practices at a PG&E tower. The C-hooks meant to support an insulator assembly showed “significant wear that was not detected as part of PG&E’s transmission infrastructure patrol and inspection program,” according to the SED. One of the C-hooks failed, causing the assembly to fall to the ground and start the fire.
The state’s second-largest wildfire, the 2021 Dixie Fire, was also the result of PG&E equipment, CNN reported. Investigators said the fire started when PG&E power lines came into contact with a tree. At the time, the power company said that over 8 million trees were close enough to power lines that they could come in contact. In response, PG&E promised to bury 10,000 miles of power lines. Another fire, the 2020 Zogg Fire, was also started by a tree coming into contact with power lines, and PG&E’s lines were also linked to the 2019 Kincade Fire.
Though there have been a number of major fires in years past, experts predict that 2023 will be an average year for wildfires due to a wet winter, according to KGO.
“We shouldn’t expect large fires in July which is different than previous years,” said Dr. Craig Clements, Director of the San Jose State University Wildfire Research Center, told the station, but warned that fire danger will increase in the autumn, as it’s the “driest time of year.”
In addition to the money earmarked for the power grid, Biden is also expected to announce $575 million in funding for a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) project devoted to helping communities on the nation’s coasts as the severity of major storms increases.
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