PG&E warns of increased public safety power shutoffs in Sonoma County

PG&E public safety power shutoffs may increase this year.
PG&E public safety power shutoffs may increase this year. Photo credit Getty Images

Planned power shutoffs in Sonoma County could increase this year under new criteria used by PG&E to assess wildfire risk.

A recent policy change recommended by a federal court will see the utility company take a tree’s height, density and health into account as well as the tree’s potential to impact power lines when issuing PSPS in Sonoma County.

"The federal court overseeing PG&E’s probation issued an order recommending that we account for trees that are tall enough to strike power-lines when deciding whether to turn off power for safety," Utility Spokesperson Deanna Contreras explained to KCBS Radio.

This new criteria may almost double the potential number of planned outages in Sonoma County as more trees, over a wider expanse of land, will be deemed at risk.

According to estimates made by the utility company, there are about 5.3 million trees existing in PG&E service territories that would match the new policy criteria.

PG&E also estimates that the number of Sonoma County customers affected will increase from 5,804 to 6,266, The Press Democrat reported.

Now, the utility company must convince tens of thousands of property owners to trim back or remove their trees currently threatening powerlines.