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California Energy Company Restores Power For 2 Million Residents Following Forced Blackout

For nearly three days, millions of residents in Northern and Central California lost power after their energy provider, PG&E, forced them into a deliberate backup to prevent more forest fires.

The move naturally resulted in immense pressure against the company, which restored power to 97% of customers by Friday night. Some 22,000 residents still remain without power.

The Sacramento Bee reported that PG&E Chief Executive Bill Johnson “continued to insist the blackout was necessary to prevent wildfires as high winds swept the state; he predicted at 6 p.m. that 98 percent of the affected customers would have the lights back on by midnight.”

Brian Edwards-Tiekert, host of “UpFront” on KPFA, provided a lengthy explainer on the situation on Twitter last week, explaining that PG&E “is presently in bankruptcy because its neglected equipment sparked massive wildfires over the past two years.” He added that the company “doesn’t want to rack up more wildfire liability but it also hasn’t completed two thirds of the inspections and maintenance it told a judge it needs to make the system safer.”

Edwards-Tiekert went on to explain that the company planned to turn the power off for “up to 2.5 million people, for up to six days” because of the recent dry weather in the region. He added that the situation “was largely preventable (if PG&E had been trimming trees, replacing transformers, and maintaining decrepit towers).”

Some critics pushed back on Edwards-Tiekert’s assertions, suggesting that environmentalists prevented PG&E from trimming trees.

As the morning show host noted, such an extended power outage could result in millions of dollars of spoiled food and would shut down businesses and could even kill people.

In fact, there is one confirmed death following the power outage, though the coroner claimed the outage had nothing to do with the man’s death. Robert Mardis Sr.’s family, however, disagrees, saying the family patriarch required an oxygen machine to survive. They were prepared with a battery-operated backup machine, but the power was cut at 3:30 a.m. Mardis did not have time to get to his backup machine and died.

“I don’t understand why they turned off the power,” Mardis’ daughter, Marie Aldea, said. “No winds at all. And because of that, my father is gone. Blaming them is not going to bring my father back, unfortunately.”

She told the Los Angeles Times that her father “was going to his portable oxygen machine,” but died before they could get it operating. “We weren’t even able to get to the generator it happened so quick,” she said.

After an intense backlash, PG&E returned power ahead of the six-day schedule. That backlash included multiple comments from Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA).

”We’re all leaning into it,” Newsom said of the blackout. “I can assure you, you will see additional efforts into the new year. A lot of it can be done administratively, and a lot of it is already being pursued by the Public Utilities Commission with its new leadership.”

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