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California crisis of fires, blackouts decades in the making

California’s Pacific Gas & Electric is faced regularly with a no-win choice between risking the start of a deadly wildfire or immiserating millions of paying customers by shutting of the power. The utility serves more than 5 million electrical customers in one of the world’s most technologically advanced areas. But PG&E is facing $30 billion in liabilities, billions more in needed upgrades to its system and an uncertain path back to safely providing reliable power to a vast portion of the most populous U.S. state.

That reality is the result of a systemic failure by the utility’s management, the regulators who oversee it and the politicians who let it all happen. It’s a story of climate change, a housing crisis and an aging power system.

Associated Press writer Michael Liedtke contributed to this story.

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