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Paying for PG&E's mistakes

More than 1 million Northern California residents continued to be without power Monday, and Pacific Gas & Electric warned it might impose another power shutdown across 32 counties.

Meanwhile, Oregon customers of Pacific Power can only watch and be grateful that they are not in the same boat.

PG&E, the public utility that serves most of California north of Bakersfield, filed for bankruptcy in January as party of its efforts to deal with $30 billion in liabilities from the Camp fire last year.

The Camp fire is believed to have started with a spark from a transmission tower that was more than 100 years old and 25 years past its useful life. This year, hoping to prevent a recurrence, PG&E conducted massive power shutoffs across Northern California. But the the Kincade fire in Sonoma County, the biggest so far, may have been started by a PG&E transmission tower malfunction.

Meanwhile, customers of Pacific Power here in Oregon have been told the company may order power shutoffs in extreme cases, but they will be rare and confined to closely targeted areas. The company also has pledged to provide tent shelters with air conditioning and fresh water — something that has not been offered to PG&E customers in California. Pacific Power says its own records indicate only one case in the past 10 years would have resulted in power being shut off for one hour.

That’s a far cry from the days without power that PG&E customers are enduring, with more to come.

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