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California regulators open investigation into power outages means to prevent wildfires

A regulatory commission in California reportedly voted Wednesday to open a formal investigation into planned blackouts caused by private utility companies in the state trying to prevent wildfires.

The Associated Press reported that the California Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously to open a formal probe over the blackouts, which state officials have said were done with unclear communication from officials at the state’s largest private utility, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E).

Power outages caused by PG&E in an effort to prevent wildfires believed to have been caused by the company’s power lines lasted for several days last month, affecting nearly a million residents.

“This is not … a climate change story as much as a story about greed and mismanagement over the course of decades,” California’s Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said last month of the outages, according to CNN. “Neglect, a desire to advance not public safety but profits.”

A spokesperson for PG&E defended the planned blackouts when contacted by the AP, and stressed that the utility has “made every effort” to follow the commission’s requirements when causing blackouts.

Local CBS and Fox affiliate KBUK reported that commission president Marybel Batjer said Wednesday that she was “absolutely astounded” at PG&E’s lack of preparation for implementing the blackouts and alerting customers to when service would be restored.

An order issued by the commission to launch the investigation questioned whether PG&E “properly balanced the need to provide reliable service with public safety and were properly planned and executed,” according to KBUK.

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