The Kincaid fire in Sonoma County is near where I live, but we are not inundated with smoke like with the Paradise fire. However, much of Vacaville was without power or wifi for days on two separate occasions, in October. Ironically, despite the punitive power shutoffs, PG&E’s aging and poorly maintained equipment probably caused the Kincaid fire.
PG&E has for decades spent money on executive bonuses, salaries (https://www1.salary.com/PGandE-CORP-Executive-Salaries.html), donations to individual campaigns and lobbying (https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/summary.php?id=D000000290) and to conservative sides of propositions in California (such as same-sex marriage and labeling GMOs—against both). So, what if they spent all these millions in repairing their equipment so they can provide power (at a premium) with those who are forced to use that power being assured of a reasonable expectation of safety.
Last year around this time when PG&E burned down Paradise, California, killing dozens and destroying a perfectly fine community, my community was living under a deadly blanket of toxic smoke. Even going out with a mask on (if you could find one to buy) was not sufficient and I know I, for one, got really ill from it.
We sit in our homes with the wind beating the shit out of us wondering when it will be our community burning down and these power outages are not helping anything. Between power outages and people dying, of course, there’s no choice, but there are other options that need to be put into place quickly!
As we know there are no power “needs,” only power “wants,” but under late-stage, predatory capitalism, the criminal profiteers have made it nearly impossible to live/make a living without power.
When businesses are closed, most of the workers are not making any wages. I have read of restaurants losing thousands of dollars of food while we residents of the dystopian PG&E-fiefdom also lose freezers filled with leftovers, etc. My son, for example, was off for a week because the office of his employer is near the Kincaid fire and many of his colleagues have been evacuated or are under the threat of imminent evacuation. Again, no work, no pay—except for the fat cats in Sacramento or in the boardroom of PG&E.
Recently, PG&E President and CEO Bill Johnson was interviewed by a reporter from an SF Bay Area news show and when asked about the cost to Californians of these outages and fires, he very arrogantly had this to say:
"These events can be hard on people, really hard on people, particularly people who have struggles anyways and there are community-based things you can do, food banks, these kinds of things. But for us, you know the main thing is we didn't cause any fires, we didn't, for these people we didn't burn down any houses, the Kincade fire is still under the investigation, I got that, but one of the things we did was give them the opportunity to actually refill their refrigerator 'cause their house is still there."
There are many disturbing factual errors in the above statement, but the hubris of telling we rate-paying peasants to go to “food banks” to restock our freezers (is PG&E donating millions to these mostly heroic food banks?) is heightened by the fact many PG&E board members are compensated in seven-figured packages.
Governor Gavin Newsom is offering no solutions except to say, “this has been decades in the making,” and that scoundrel belongs to one of the top Democrat families that (along with the Feinsteins, Jerry Browns, and Pelosis) have allowed PG&E to lay siege to the public commons so that a handful of murderers can earn millions of dollars. PG&E has been allowed for far too long to pillage and poison California! Enough is enough, already!
Besides the discussions of how to “get off the grid,” the positive thing about this entire situation is that ordinary people (not activists, not anarchists, not socialists, not communists) are outraged and no one is complacent about this. I hear, “PG&E’s equipment should be seized by each community and we should form our own utility districts,” from the most surprising sources: my bus driver; two older gentlemen I was walking behind at the park today; a librarian: no one is complacent. Also, there is much discussion about breaking up monopolies and political dynasties, which is urgently needed.
In my opinion, these power outages seem to be random and ineffective, with power out on one side of a street, but not the other—with power out in interior clumps of Vacaville, but not other areas—and, like stated above, the Kincaid fire was caused by faulty PG&E equipment—so I think PG&E is punishing Northern California for finally fining it for the devastation caused in Paradise, after raising our rates, of course. PG&E is trying to turn my beautiful state into one of Trump’s “shithole countries.” The next thing we know the Clinton Foundation will be swooping in to “save us;” goddess, that’s all we need!
Of course, climate change is playing a role in the new season in Cali, called “Fire Season,” but there sure would be far fewer fires and damage if PG&E had been attending to its equipment and not its profits.
Public power should not be for-profit but should be put under the democratic control of each community with the goal of providing safe power and the exploration of alternative forms of energy.
I don’t know anyone in my town that is itching to burn it down for a few dollars.
Cindy Lee Sheehan is an American anti-war activist, whose son, U.S. Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, was killed by enemy action during the Iraq War. She attracted national and international media attention in August 2005 for her extended antiwar protest at a makeshift camp outside President George W. Bush’s Texas ranch—a stand that drew both passionate support and criticism. Sheehan ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2008. She was a vocal critic of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy. Her memoir, Peace Mom: A Mother’s Journey Through Heartache to Activism, was published in 2006. In an interview with The Daily Beast in 2017, Sheehan continued to hold her critical views towards George W. Bush, while also criticizing the militarism of Donald Trump.
Ms.Sheehan was the 2012 vice-presidential nominee of the Peace and Freedom Party, and received 1.2% of the statewide vote in the 2014 California gubernatorial election.
The author graciously has permitted this website to reprint selected essays.
The views and/or opinions expressed by the author are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of APS Radio News or of its affiliate, APS Radio.