Power shutoffs affecting more than 1 million residents, scheduled by PG&E this week throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern California, have sparked a massive backlash, with many community members telling reporters that they are shocked that the company has not done more to upgrade its transmission lines.
The decision to shut off the electricity services, a precaution over concerns about high winds, raises the question of precisely how PG&E has been spending its rate-payers’ money. And the answer isn’t pretty: While neglecting safety upgrades and investments in its aging infrastructure, PG&E has instead been lavishly rewarding shareholders and buying political influence.
Over the last year, reporters have highlighted the large lobby spending and billions of dollars in dividend payments to investors by PG&E, while the company avoided necessary investments in its aging transmission towers — some of which are among the oldest in the world and were known to the company to be a potential fire hazard. The aging transmission lines caused the Camp Fire wildfires last November, the most destructive in California history, that left 86 dead, over a dozen injured, and caused at least $16 billion in damages.