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California Burning: The Fall of Pacific Gas and Electric–and What It Means for America’s Power Grid

October 4, 2023 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Join Wall Street Journal reporter and Pulitzer finalist Katherine Blunt as we examine how a powerful company can put people in a powerless (and deadly) situation.


California Burning: The Fall of Pacific Gas and Electric—and What It Means for America’s Power Grid is a revelatory, urgent narrative with national implications, exploring the decline of California’s largest utility company that led to countless wildfires—including the one that destroyed the town of Paradise—and the human cost of infrastructure failure.


Pacific Gas and Electric was a legacy company built by innovators and visionaries, establishing California as a desirable home and economic powerhouse. In California Burning, Katherine Blunt examines how that legacy fell apart—unraveling a long history of deadly failures in which Pacific Gas and Electric endangered millions of Northern Californians, through criminal neglect of its infrastructure. As PG&E prioritized profits and politics, power lines went unchecked—until a rusted hook purchased for 56 cents in 1921 split in two, sparking the deadliest wildfire in California history.


California Burning is a deeply reported, character-driven narrative, the story of a disaster expanding into a much bigger exploration of accountability. It’s an American tragedy that serves as a cautionary tale for utilities across the nation—especially as climate change makes aging infrastructure more vulnerable, with potentially fatal consequences.


​Katherine Blunt has written about utilities and renewable energy for the Journal since 2018. Her coverage of PG&E, reported in close collaboration with two colleagues, was a finalist for the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting and earned a Gerald Loeb award, the highest honor in business journalism. The series also won the 2019 Thomas L. Stokes Award for energy and environmental writing, as well as a silver Barlett & Steele award through the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism.