- A fallen Pacific Gas & Electric power line sparked a wildfire on Tuesday that burned more than 2,500 acres in Monterey County, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire).
- The fire is now fully contained, Bay City News Service reports, and PG&E officials say they are investigating what caused the power line to come down.
- California utilities now have wildfire mitigation plans in place to reduce the risk — earlier this month, PG&E instituted its first Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS), proactively cutting power to approximately 22,700 customers at a time when wind speeds were forecast to accelerate.
The PSPS program is meant as a last-resort, when gusts of winds could take down power lines in fire-prone areas. PG&E says it is working to determine the cause of a fallen line this week, but did not declare any safety-related blackouts.
There was no damage to homes and no injuries to the public or firefighters, according to local reports.
Utilities in California all face wildfire risk and have been working together to educate the public about the proactive blackouts. Wildfires in the last two years have exposed utilities to billions in liability and ultimately played a role in PG&E declaring bankruptcy earlier this year.
PG&E recently provided an update on its accelerated safety inspection of its system, saying through the end of May, the utility "completed visual inspections of approximately 99 percent of its distribution infrastructure and visual or aerial inspections of approximately 98 percent of its transmission infrastructure in high-fire threat areas."
That included approximately 50,000 electric transmission structures, 700,000 distribution poles and 222 substations, the utility said.
California regulators are considering a range of options to improve safety at the embattled utility, including potentially splitting apart its gas and electric businesses and linking its rate of return to safety metrics. Another proposal would establish a periodic review of PG&E's certificate of public convenience and necessity, to "reduce the utility's sense of entitlement to its monopoly position, which tends to build complacency," according to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).
Opening comments on the restructuring proposals are due to the CPUC July 19, with reply comments due Aug. 2.
At the same time, the utility is facing a bondholder-led reorganization plan in bankruptcy court. Investors are offering up to $30 billion in capital, including $16 billion to $18 billion earmarked for 2017 and 2018 wildfire claims, along with a potential name change.
The plan would rename PG&E to "Golden State Power Light & Gas Co.," while the parent corporation would be known as "GSPL&G Corp."