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E-145 - Thursday, October 10, 2019, presented by SYASLPartners
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RECENT AURAL PLEASURE:
SCOTUS WATCH: Look for the next update on this week's oral arguments and next week cases in Sunday's Nooner.
NOONER PREMIUM UPDATES:
IN TODAY'S NOONER:
I'm going to be quick today for two reasons. (Final edit correction--yeah, right Scott!) I'm doing lots of back-end work on the website/databases as we get ready for 2020 and lost an hour updating my MacBook to Catalina this morning. (Love it--Catalina is where I did my final open water dives for PADI when I was 13!) Also, I'm working on some exciting new things including a live podcast recording that will be announced soon.
For those in (and around) the Capitol, please continue to look at the online Legislative Directory for updates and send me names of communications and district directors, which I am adding. Just for this and the elections pages, it's over 1750 database records so it's a constant process to keep everything updated, as many of you who have the responsibility of keeping these kinds of things updated can appreciate
Thank you to all those that have contributed to the updates so far!
FIGHT (FOR) THE POWER: Yesterday, people on the left, right, and in between took to social media to blast Pacific Gas & Electric over the Public Safety Power Shutoffs. Conspiracy theories were front-and-center although devoid of facts. As I wrote yesterday, I'll hold off until after this event is over to look at exactly what happened and whether the shutoff was worth it or not.
Reportedly, there are currently 600,000 customers without power and 126,000 have been restored. Remember "customer" means accounts and not the number of people affected. This afternoon, an additional 4,000 customers in Kern County are expected to be taken offline, but that number has been downsized from an expected 40,000.
On the left, advocates for government-run utilities pointed to dividends paid out in the 2000s that could have been spent on hardening the infrastructure and to political unwillingness to address climate change with bold plans such as the Green Deal.
On the right, it was such things as CEQA/NEPA governmental intervention that has kept PG&E from clear cutting forests around a mix of dead and live trees and other items of state and federal regulations. Oh, and blame has been assigned to IBEW contracts with claims that workers are sent to the forested areas to maintain lines and sit around playing cards.
Elected officials from across the spectrum used the opportunity to make the event a punctuation on whatever their personal favorite argument is. Today or tomorrow, the same finger-pointing will likely move to Southern California Edison. as the high-pressure system moves east and sets up a Southern California Santa Ana winds situation. My sister in Simi Valley has been sharing the alerts that she's been getting there in southern Ventura County.
The finger-pointing and hyperbole may be for short-term political game or make for a social media meme of the variety normally attributable to people like me, but this is serious. An employee in a PG&E vehicle was shot at on Tuesday evening. Fortunately, the employee wasn't hit and the bullet just shattered the window of the truck, but like we saw with the vaccinations debate, this is where politics can turn violent and put the lives of innocent employees at risk.
Like State Senators hit by human blood that could have had blood-borne pathogens on the Senate Floor at 5:14pm on September 13, politics could have turned deadly Tuesday night in Colusa County. That employee was doing what he could to keep Californians safe and has nothing to do with the PG&E Board of Directors, dividends paid out to shareholders a decade ago, or executive bonuses.
Anybody who participates in hateful memes with political hyperbole in the middle of this public safety event could end up with blood on their hands, and that itself is not hyperbole. That's why I have pulled back.
Like the Dodgers will have a team meeting after last night's catastrophe to discuss among other things whether Clayton Kershaw should be sent to Tahiti during the playoffs, we will have plenty of time to evaluate what worked, what didn't, and what should be done differently before the next event. We can't change things mid-event. You can't undo grabbing a hot pan handle but you can remember to use a potholder the next time.
I've probably been the one who has consistanty written the most critically of the utilities and have showcased campaign contributions in a manner that mainstream media has not. Remember the $1 million given from the California State Association of Electrical Workers to the California Democratic Party on August 17, 2018, exactly two weeks before the final vote on SB 901, the so-called PG&E "bailout"? How many times have you read about that elsewhere?
That all being said, the system appears to have worked. Yesterday, I gave you a graphical representation of the >=153 lost lives over the last two years due to wildfires in California.
Today, from all I can tell, I don't have to add any more 😢 emojis to the toll. And, from CalFire, it appears there are any life-threatening fires right now.
Another meme on social media has been that PG&E exaggerated the risk because they personally did not see the trees blowing outside the window. Well, I've seen big gusts here at Nooner HQ at 6th/T and I walked a few miles outside yesterday. Sacramento never was expected to be the epicenter of wind storms. But check this out from the PG&E release:
"As of 6 a.m. Thursday, peak wind gusts — a major factor in the decision to implement a PSPS — have been recorded at 77 mph at Mt. St. Helena West in Sonoma County and 75 mph at Mount Diablo in Contra Costa County since midnight. Both of these areas were de-energized in the PSPS action."
PG&E does report that there are many pieces of equipment damaged by "vegetation," which likely includes fallen trees of the type that cause power-line-caused fires.
Could the power shutoffs been more narrowly crafter? Perhaps. I'm not an electrical engineer. I have however sat through enough hearings on this topic to know that a vulnerable high voltage power line in a remote part of the state that must be shut off with our current grid will affect an urban area with no trees. As was pointed out in an article sometime this year, even San Francisco could be affected because some of its power travels through the hills across the bridge in the vulnerable hills above Oakland. We know from experience what can happen in those very hills.
Mother Nature does not send a map of where the winds are going to be the highest or when gusts may arise. Instead, we know that when a high-pressure system sits over Utah, it creates a generally dangerous but unpredictable environment. Yes, I trust the climatologists that tell us that something is happening that is creating more uncertain weather patterns, whether human-caused or not. "Global warming" is the usual, but incorrect, parlance, as it paves the way to deniers of change to point to snowstorms via tweet as a way to debunk theories. We know that the mean high temperature has been rising and that the polar ice caps are shrinking, but looking at a given temperature on a particular day or a wet winter or dry winter to make your argument is nonsensical.
We are in a period of "global weather extremes" for a reason that only those with their heads in the sand can deny. I personally believe that reduction of emissions is smart for many reasons. That's why you see me on my feet around town and why I get most of my food from farmers' market. But, perhaps the cause of global weather extremes is not human-caused. Science has been wrong before.
All that said, we have to adjust and are in the midst of doing so. Has enough been done? Absolutely not and I know of nobody who would make that argument.
Most residents had 48 hours notice to ensure they were prepared for the wind event and likely power shutoffs. If people prepared and checked in on their vulnerable friends and family, people were largely safe. Public safety and government stepped in to ensure the safety of medically vulnerable individuals that are part of a registry set up for exactly this purpose. In communities around the state, quasi-shelters were set up to allow people to be comfortable, recharge their phones, or just to have a place to not sit alone in the dark.
Again, I don't think we have any sad emjois to add to our fatalities list so far in this event and I say Namu Amida Butsu that there won't be any. Inconveniencies abound indeed, but nobody can feign ignorance of the event.
For now, thank you to PG&E employees, Caltrans who kept the Caldecott and Lantos tunnels open with huge generators, and to the Sacramento Metropolitan Utilities District who also had to be vigilant and re-source and re-route electricity as PG&E took parts of the grid offline.
Does that make me a PG&E apologist? Did someone pay me to write this perspective? Of course not. Many of you have known me a long time but thousands of your know nothing about me.
In 2006, SMUD tried to answer the call from residents in Yolo County's Davis, West Sacramento, and Woodland to be annexed and to be served by the same public utility that serves most of the Sacramento region's residents for electrical service. The measure passed in Yolo County but failed among SMUD district voters after a huge opposition disinformation campaign by PG&E and its primary union, IBEW. The opposition campaign scared SMUD customers -- who already pay less for what most consider more reliable service -- by arguing that rates would go up for SMUD customers. Most people who I know across the political spectrum that weren't working for the PG&E/IBEW opposition campaign believe that was a specious argument at best.
I voted for that ballot measure as a Yolo County resident and PG&E customer then and likely would if given the opportunity again now as a Sacramento resident and SMUD customer (for electricity; PG&E still provides natural gas service here).
That doesn't mean that I can't say "good job." I don't give a crap about politics or woulda/coulda/shoulda in the middle of a very dangerous event. We still have a lot to do on both policy and implementation. That won't be solved before this policy is over.
I care about lives far more than politics. And, while not an electrical engineer, fire science expert, or climatologist, I think that if we escape this event without a major fire and lost lives like in 2017 and 2018, it is only because of steps taken by the Legislature and Governors Brown and Newsom, public safety organizations including our fire and police services, local government leaders, nonprofits--and, yes, Pacific Gas and Electric employees, including the men and women of IBEW.
Most of you are influencers from the top level of California government to local government to businesses and organization to your own family. I'd like to say that you are informed and smart because you're a Nooner reader. You can help explain the complexity of the situation and simmer down the rhetoric. Make sure that people know that Johnny can't flip the switch on at once. Lines must be inspected and there's a complex load balancing things that I know nothing about but I listen when experts speak in hearings. They sorta know better than Twitter's @politico123456.
Here are important links:
I'll say it one more time today. Nobody has died and I'm sorry you couldn't get your pumpkin spice latte this morning.
CA53 (San Diego), CAKEDAY and CLASSIFIEDS after the jump...
CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Victoria Grajek, Shelly Lorenze, Governor Gavin Newsom, Jeremy Thompson!