RIVERSIDE – As recently as the Fourth of July holiday, the California Public Utilities Commission had in place a plan — Public Safety Power Shutoff — directing the state’s electricity providers, like Southern California Edison, to turn off electrical power if weather conditions threatened a wildland fire.

While predictions called for power to be shut off in more than one circuit, the plan never materialized because weather conditions did not warrant a shutdown.

Now comes the question as to whether the Public Utilities Commission is acting in accordance with current law.

On Tuesday, Aug. 26, Riverside County Supervisors V. Manuel Perez and Jeff Hewitt will seek support from their colleagues to find out. Perez and Hewitt are asking the Board of Supervisors to direct the Assistant CEO of Public Safety and the Deputy CEO of Legislative Affairs to review Senate Bill 68, which became law in 2001 during the energy crisis. Perez and Hewitt want to know if the law would still prevent the CPUC from mandating a Public Safety Power Shutoff for areas impacted by extreme heat.

Or, has SB 68 has been chaptered out by a more recent bill or law?

The duo wants answers.

If the California Public Utilities Commission is acting in accordance with current law, who pays for the shutoff?

A shutoff could mean a one- to four-day power outage in your circuit. This means you might have to use a shelter, according to Tom Freeman, Perez’ chief of public policy. It means major hurdles for those who have special-care needs in the home or at local hospitals, along with board and care facilities.

“In fact, the very possibility of having no electricity may be very challenging for residents and families of all ages,” Freeman said in an opinion column for Uken Report.

Wildfires are nothing new to California. Years of drought exacerbated fire conditions. Last year, with entire communities ravaged by fire, was one of the worst in recent memory. In some cases, experts blamed “arching power lines.”

Public Safety Power Shutoff

Supervisor V. Manuel Perez

Perez and Hewitt are wasting no time in rallying financial resources.

In the event the Public Utilities Commission can mandate a Public Safety Power Shutoff, Perez and Hewitt also want the Assistant CEO of Public Safety and the Director of Emergency Management to seek planning grants to improve preparedness due to potential impacts of a power shutdown.

Supervisors want to know if recovering costs associated with a Public Safety Power Shutoff is possible given that AB 1054, Section 24 and Senate Bill 901, Section 48 expressly prohibit local government cost recovery.

They want public safety and emergency management executives to work with the Governor’s Office of Emergency Management, to secure a portion of the $75 million in one-time State General Funds to protect vulnerable populations in response to a Public Safety Power Shutoff.

In a letter dated, Oct. 26, 2018, the state of California has directed the three major electricity providers in California about the expectations of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, Cal Fire, and the California Public Utilities Commission regarding the Public Safety Power Shutoff implementation.

Public Safety Power ShutoffThe three major electricity providers in California are Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, and SDGE, a Sempra Energy Utility.

Supervisors encourage residents and business owners to click here for additional information and enrollment in the notification program by your utility provider.



Image Sources

  • V. Manuel Perez: Supervisor V. Manuel Perez
  • Southern California Edison: Shutterstock
  • Pacific Gas and Electric: Shutterstock