For-profit utility giant PG&E cut off power to nearly 180,000 more Californians Thursday in a purported effort to prevent devastating wildfires, a move that sparked outrage from environmentalists who said the company is making the public pay for its refusal to act on the climate crisis.
"For the second time in two weeks, hundreds of thousands of Californians will be left in the dark by their electricity company and public officials who haven't done enough in the face of climate change," Rachel Rye Butler, climate campaigner with Greenpeace USA, said in a statement. "Vulnerable communities continue to pay the price."
"PG&E is not alone in shouldering the blame. The fossil fuel industry has polluted Californians' air and water for decades and fueled the climate crisis, creating the hotter, drier conditions partially responsible for catastrophic wildfires."
—Rachel Butler, Greenpeace USA
"PG&E is not alone in shouldering the blame," added Butler. "The fossil fuel industry has polluted Californians' air and water for decades and fueled the climate crisis, creating the hotter, drier conditions partially responsible for catastrophic wildfires and the need for power shutoffs across the state."
California's Democratic governor Gavin Newsom slammed PG&E earlier this month for the blackouts and the corporate mismanagement that made them necessary. "They've created these conditions," said Newsom. "This can't be the new normal."
But Butler said Newsom should also be pressed to take climate action that challenges the power of the oil and gas industry and begins "a just transition to phase out oil production in California."
"Governor Gavin Newsom is pointing fingers at PG&E," said Butler, "but things are only going to get worse if Newsom lets the fossil fuel industry carry on business as usual."
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As the Los Angeles Times reported, "more than half a million people woke up without power" across California Thursday amid hot weather and strong winds that intensified the wildfires that are currently raging in the state.
"Southern California Edison has shut off power to more than 15,500 customers in five counties—Kern, Riverside, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Ventura—as the state braces for a day of strong winds," according to the Times. "The utility is monitoring 286,000 more customers in those areas and Orange County for possible shut-offs as the day progresses."
In a column Wednesday for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), media critic Joshua Cho documented how corporate media outlets have repeatedly failed to connect the dots between the climate crisis and the corporate malfeasance fueling PG&E's deliberate blackouts.
"Just as the human contribution to climate change can magnify disasters," Cho wrote, "corporate media coverage often bolsters public confusion and ignorance about the causes of climate disruptions like these utility blackouts, and serves to hinder action that doesn't depend on investors profiting off the current climate status quo."
"Despite what corporate media would have us believe," argued Cho, "we really don't need to choose between enduring deliberate blackouts from for-profit utilities or hazarding deadly fires and widespread power shortages."