.Open Mic: Burying Power Lines

By Jonathan Greenberg

As we wait, with dread, for this year’s fire season, it is astonishing that not a single dollar of California’s immense $76 billion budget surplus is being allocated for the only means of preventing wildfires from starting, which is burying overhead power lines.

Since 2017, four of the six most destructive fires in the state—three of them here in Norcal—were sparked by overhead power lines. Burying those overhead power lines that pose the highest risk of fires is by far the most important preventive measure that our government can take to protect us from wildfire. It would also eliminate the expanding number of crippling power shutdowns that PG&E orders because of the fire risks that overhead—but not underground—power lines pose.

Senator Mike McGuire and the Wildfire Working Group recently announced a package of new bills to legislatively complement the $2 billion that Gov. Newscom plans to spend on CAL FIRE to prepare for, remediate and fight wildfires after they start.

Yet none of this funding will go toward burying power lines or slowing power shutdowns. That’s why the Sonoma Independent and the Davis Community Vision Alliance formed a grassroots Bury Fire-Causing Power Lines Now! Campaign and a Change.org petition to “Use 2% of California’s Budget Surplus to Bury Highest Risk Fire-Causing Power Lines.”

Please join us in calling on Sen. McGuire and the Senate Natural Resources Committee Chair Henry Stern to ask them to introduce an emergency trailer bill allocation of $1.5 billion to bury the 500 riskiest miles of overhead power lines.

Our proposed bill and related information can be read at SonomaIndependent.org. It requires utility companies to match every $2 of state funding with $1 of their own, and will quadruple the number of risky overhead power lines that are being buried currently.

The legislature will vote on this to append our tax dollars by the end of the month. Let’s make sure that it protects us all with effective fire prevention, and not just preparation and response.

Jonathan Greenberg is the founder and editor of SonomaIndependent.org. We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write [email protected].
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