Local senators introduce bills to address power shutoffs, wildfire response

Sacramento, State Capitol Building

State Sens. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, and Henry Stern, D-Calabasas, announced separate bills this week that each helped co-author to address the recent power shutoffs and growing wildfire risks.

Wilk announces trio of bills

Wilk announced Friday three bills he co-authored with Sens. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, and Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, to address public safety power shutoffs: 

  • Senate Bill 801 would require utilities to deploy backup electrical resources or offer financial assistance for backup resources to medically vulnerable customers.
  • SB 802 clarifies state laws and regulations so that hospitals can run backup diesel generators for the duration of a planned utility power shutoff even if the governor has not declared a disaster or state of emergency.
  • SB 431 would require mobile phone companies to provide at least 72 hours of backup power on their towers located in high-risk fire areas.

“Until utilities can ensure their power lines are safe during high-wind situations, these bipartisan measures will address some of the challenges Californians face during a PSPS,” said Wilk in a statement. “Citizens throughout the 21st Senate District were left without water, electricity, the ability to call for help in an emergency and the use of life-saving medical devices during the power outages last fall — a totally unacceptable and dangerous situation.”

Stern’s bills gain momentum

The senator, whose district covers a portion of the Santa Clarita Valley, announced Thursday three of his bills that passed their first committee votes:

  • SB 596 would require that all applicants for in-home support service, which pays for services for low-income seniors, receive information that they may be eligible to receive a specified higher energy allowance and advance notification provided by a public utility in an emergency, such as during power shutoffs. 
  • SB 739 would require Cal Fire, the state firefighting agency, to develop a training program for individuals to learn how to practice defensible space and home hardening assessment. The program would “empower communities to protect themselves by preparing volunteers,” while Cal Fire focuses “its time and resources in more complex and time-consuming regulatory inspections,” his office said in a statement. 
  • SB 753 would authorize county officials to disclose telephone numbers and email addresses of those most vulnerable, such as seniors or individuals with disabilities, to emergency services personnel in the event of an emergency and where evacuations are needed. 

“As we move out of fire season and into the legislative session, we cannot lose focus on the dual disasters of power shutoffs and wildfires that will again threaten our families in 2020 without urgent action,” said Stern in a statement. “We must think big, and make small, but critically important changes at the same time.

“That’s why I’m pushing legislation to harden our homes, enroll our most vulnerable in programs that update them on possible power shutoffs and ensure that our public agencies and first responders are communicating effectively during these emergencies.”

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