Energy and Natural Resource Committee Consider Wildfire Impacts on Electric Grid

December 19, 2019

To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s opening remarks, please click here.

To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s questioning, please click here.

Washington, DC – Today, the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to examine the impacts of wildfire on electric grid reliability and efforts to mitigate wildfire risk and increase grid resilience. U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ranking Member of the Committee, raised his concerns about the potential impacts of electricity infrastructure on wildfires, human life and property.

“Wildfires are a threat to critical infrastructure like the electric grid but, as we’ve seen in several instances, equipment failure on the grid can also spark wildfires. This is especially true for Western states. We have seen several catastrophic fires in California, but this impacts Eastern states, too,” Ranking Member Manchin said.

This past November, the Dry Hollow fire burned 1,300 acres in Pendleton County, West Virginia. Fortunately, no homes or critical infrastructure were impacted.

Ranking Member Manchin questioned Bill Johnson, CEO of Pacific Gas and Electric Corporation, on his company’s understanding of past mistakes, lessons learned and efforts being taken to address aging infrastructure and prioritize equipment replacement.

“Wildfires are increasing in intensity, size and frequency; and we’re going to need a new approach to mitigate their devastating impacts and ensure that electricity infrastructure isn’t starting fires. They are also getting harder to control due to climate change, lack of forest management and new housing developments in rural, fire-prone areas.” Ranking Member Manchin said.  “There is no ‘silver bullet,’ but we can and should look to learn from the utilities that have made their grids the most resilient to wildfires, have the best maintenance programs and the best service delivery.”

The hearing also featured witnesses from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Northwest Public Power Association, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Texas A&M University and Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. To read their testimony click here. 

To watch the hearing in full, please click here