SACRAMENTO, Calif. - State regulators are opposing Pacific Gas & Electric's proposal to bury thousands of miles of power lines in areas prone to fires.
PG&E aims to complete the extensive burial project by 2026 but needs the approval of state regulators to raise rates to pay for the estimated $6 billion project.
PG&E estimates that the plan to bury lines would result in an additional $3.40 per month for the average residential consumer, but authorities argue that the costs are too high.
The California Public Utilities Commission oversees PG&E and says there are other ways to address public safety that don’t cost so much. The CPUC is considering two recommendations: one that allows for PG&E to bury 200 miles of lines in high fire danger areas, and another that allows for 973 miles to be buried by 2026.
The CPUC also recommends that PG&E insulate its lines to protect them from sparking wildfires.
However, PG&E's CEO said undergrounding the power lines will, in fact, lead to long-term cost savings.
"We are discovering that not undergrounding is ultimately more costly," said PG&E CEO Patti Poppe. "We recognize that undergrounding offers a more cost-effective maintenance solution and reduces expenses associated with vegetation inspection. In suitable areas, it represents the most economically viable climate-resilient infrastructure."