The reality that an estimated half million people or more across North California on Thursday entered the second day of planned power outages in order to prevent a repeat of deadly and extreme wildfires in the region is prompting outrage across the region as critics condemn the failures and greed of PG&E, the state’s largest utility, as unacceptable in this age of climate-related disasters.

The scheduled power outage over the coming days could affect 34 of California’s 58 counties and 2.5 million people by the time it ends.

“We can’t keep hopping from crisis to crisis like this. We need to realize that we are living in climate change, and this is the cost.”
—April Glaser, Slate

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In the Sacramento Bee, columnist Marcos Breton wrote an op-ed calling the controlled outage, the largest blackout in California history, “a new normal that is not normal.”

“Climate change isn’t tomorrow,” Breton wrote. “Climate change is now. This is it. We’re living it now. And if that sounds like stating the obvious, well, then it’s still worth repeating because not enough people believe the obvious.”

PG&E commenced the blackout amid 20 to 45 mile-per-hour wind forecasts that were similar to those which affected the area two years ago and contributed to wildfires that tore through 1.2 million acres of forested land. Last year, historic wildfires in California destroyed at least one town and killed 86 people.

In a scathing editorial in The Mercury News, the newspaper argues that only PG&E, which it calls the state’s “least trusted utility,” could make such an epic mess of a public safety issue like this.

“Safety, of course, comes first,” reads the editorial. “No one wants a repeat of the deadly blazes of 2017 and 2018. But the utility’s plan for a massive shutdown of 800,000 customers cannot become the new normal.”

It continues, “the size of the shutdown is an admission that PG&E has yet again failed to adequately maintain its power lines. Consumers should be outraged that the utility, a convicted felon, has subjected them to some of the highest rates in the nation and then routinely failed to meet basic safety standards.”

The outage has already been linked to a number of traffic accidents as Californians navigate intersections where stop lights are not working and grocery store customers reported hours-long lines as they attempt to stock up on essentials. Lines at gas stations “were 20 cars deep on Tuesday night” as residents prepared for shortages, the New York Times reported.

Rafael Navar, California State Director for Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) presidential campaign, released a statement Wednesday saying Sanders’s Green New Deal proposal and plan to invest $526 billion in a modern electrical grid could prevent PG&E from using controlled blackouts as a means to stem the deadly impact of the climate crisis.

Sanders “is the only candidate with a plan that will end the greed in our energy system and will distribute power through public power districts, municipally- and cooperatively-owned utilities with democratic, public ownership, and other existing utilities that demonstrate a commitment to the public interest,” Navar said.

“No one in this country should be losing power in their home because large corporations have failed to invest in a smart, safe, and modern electrical grid,” he added.