FILE - In this Dec. 16, 2017, file photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, flames burn near power lines in Sycamore Canyon near West Mountain Drive in Montecito, Calif. California says sparks from power lines and other electrical equipment caused many of the state’s major wildfires in 2017 and 2018. Federal officials have awarded $176 million over several years to help states and territories bury power lines. (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP, File)

Dealing with power lines a lower US priority as risks grow

November 25, 2019 - 1:10 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — California’s wildfires are drawing attention to the risks above-ground power lines pose in storms — and the patchwork of efforts around the country to deal with them.

Experts point to the vulnerability of overhead lines as one of many dangers that will get worse as the climate deteriorates. An Obama-era report concludes power outages from weather extremes already cost the U.S. economy tens of billions of dollars annually.

California says sparks from power lines and other electrical equipment caused many of the state’s major wildfires in 2017 and 2018.

Federal officials have awarded $176 million over several years to help states and territories bury power lines. A Florida-based researcher, Ted Kury, notes that federal law largely leaves it to states, utilities and communities to decide whether to safeguard overhead lines.

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