According to The Register-Guard's editorial, published on June 19 in The News-Review, Pacific Power, which serves this area, announced it is prepared to shut off electricity to customers this summer in extreme drought conditions — dry vegetation, high winds, low humidity — because of "fire safety issues." Also, that this action would most likely happen in areas considered "high risk," such as Douglas and Josephine counties.

That's us. And you can be sure it would affect primarily rural areas and small towns. This follows the class action lawsuit filed against PG&E in California after it was found liable for the Camp Fire, which destroyed a good portion of Paradise, California. this action suggests a primary reason for this shut-off plan is Pacific Power's concern about a similar lawsuit, should a fire occur due to negligence in the area.

This power shut-off could be a disaster in itself. If you think this winter's loss of electricity during the February storm was bad, picture this: 90 to 100 degree heat with no air conditioning, fans, refrigeration for food, showers, clean clothes — not to mention health issues for the elderly, or those with breathing problems who are not in nursing homes or hospitals. And the worst part — this situation could exist for an indeterminate period of time, given the summer weather history here. Nor rain for July, August, September or even October.

Little information has been made available. It is supposedly forthcoming. Pacific Power says it will inspect equipment, trim vegetation, install weather stations, etc. Pressure needs to be put on the company to do everything possible to avoid these drastic measures, and to provide more details. Worst-case scenario, this action would set a precedent that, once carried out, could become an annual occurrence for our area during a dry summer.

Elyse Williams


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