Letters to the editor

Thank you for event listing

EDITOR: Thanks for listing our Shared Ministries Community Thanksgiving Service in the holiday events section and elsewhere. At least six area churches participated in support of the Christmas Basket Program and food pantry, and in giving thanks in song, the word and prayer for the blessings of 2019. Hosted by Pastor Mark Airey and the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, the speaker was Pastor Daniel Flores of the Grace Community Church. Also included were thanks and appreciation given for those who worked hard to protect our towns, and the ability and opportunity to serve those in need here in the Healdsburg area.

Elaine Privat

Healdsburg

Shouting ‘break it up’ may not make electrical liability great again

EDITOR: The importance of electricity in our lives is best illustrated by how quickly we lose our thin veneer of civility when the power goes out. The public knows little about this essential commodity. Granted, it’s hard to get your head around a product that isn’t created until the instant it’s used or the complexities of an interconnected power system.

Really? Do we believe PG&E is able to override the responsibilities of Mother Nature for wind storms or the Weather Service’s declaration of Red Flag Warnings? The legislature and the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) set mandates for power shut-downs.

The concept that a business would stop selling a highly-valued product merely to irritate thousands of customers is laughable, and goes against economic principles. Life-saving shut-down mandates require utilities to sacrifice revenue while incurring expense to re-energize lines. 

Your Nov. 21 article (“Sonoma Clean Power (SCP) explores PG&E’s future options”) covers the pros and cons of utility restructuring. SCP Executive Syphers candidly explained the economic advantages of municipals (i.e. City of Healdsburg), including subsidized federal power, federal tax exemptions and lower costs of capital. Factors that explain, in part, a muni’s ability to charge lower rates. Also, muni’s manage urban distribution systems that remain energized during wind storms. 

When consumers switch to community choice aggregators (i.e. Sonoma Clean Power), PG&E is paid to transmit, distribute and back-up purchased power supplies. The uneven economics, compounded by customers loss, pressures utilities to reduce costs to remain competitive.

Local officials should hold utility executives and the CPUC accountable for capital and maintenance spending. The CPUC’s website states it will “…assure Californian’s access to safe and reliable utility infrastructure and services,” making the CPUC accountable for deferred capital upgrades and maintenance expenditures.   

Several factors contribute to recent increases in firestorms: ignition sources, climate and land use patterns. Well-maintained private or public powerlines can spark a fire — as can a homeowner, arsonist, camper or lightning strike.  A hotter, dryer climate magnifies the consequences of sparks pushed by 70 mph windstorms. And, properties that were wild when fire last swept the landscape are dotted with flammable structures.

Restructuring comes at a cost, and rural residents are likely to foot much of the bill even though restructuring may not reduce fire risk or increase reliability. Wall Street is poised to cherry-pick lucrative urban areas, making a fortune, while foisting fire prone rural areas onto local governments. So, should Sonoma “break it up”?

Judith Olney

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