City officials express frustration over Edison power shutoffs

Crews work at a Southern California Edison facility in Valencia as the company implements a public safety power shut-off (PSPS) in an effort to mitigate fire risks during dry, windy weather in Santa Clarita on Monday. Bobby Block/The Signal

Santa Clarita city officials expressed their frustration Tuesday over Southern California Edison’s series of power shutoffs over the past few months, which has prompted them to meet with state legislators and work on bringing an action plan before the City Council. 

The utility has shut off power more than a dozen times over the span of seven months via its Public Safety Power Shutoff program, which is triggered during fire weather conditions and aims to prevent wildfires caused by downed power lines and other failed utility equipment. 

Many areas of the Santa Clarita Valley, such as Acton/Agua Dulce and Canyon Country, have been heavily impacted. Communities in these neighborhoods were left without power over the holidays, and most recently, many saw a series of on-and-off shutoffs for days. Edison officials have declined repeated requests for a specific or approximate number of SCV residents affected. 

City facilities are also often impacted, which has forced the city to shut down operations and implement alternative methods of communication, according to City Manager Ken Striplin during Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

“We have received, probably at least 100 more calls, every single time one of these things occurs, and again, we share the same frustration,” said Striplin. “I will tell you that we have expressed a lot of frustration with Edison, we have communicated our challenges to them, we’ve done just like everyone else has done.” 

Councilman Jason Gibbs said a huge concern is how the shutoffs interrupt and impact residents as many continue to work and study from home. 

“As a parent of a young autistic child, when you take everything that they knew in their schedule away from them and then try to move everything into the house, it is not easy and fearing that you’re not gonna have power, they won’t be able to talk to their teacher virtually, it’s not a simple thing to try and re-distract them or reintroduce them to something else,” said Gibbs, who added that SoCal Edison has invited him to join its government advisory panel, which they use as an open dialogue between local government and communities to facilitate communication.  

Striplin added that in the past couple of months, city officials have met with legislators, in addition to meeting with SoCal Edison, and are in the process of holding stakeholder meetings “with an objective to come to the City Council in the near future with some ideas.” 

Although still in the works, ideas could include pushing for legislation that would require the utility to tighten up its PSPS program and create “greater clarity to provide more sustainable electricity,” said Striplin. 

Tuesday’s meeting comes after a hearing earlier that day with the utility and the California Public Utilities Commission, where Edison officials said the company was working on finishing an end-to-end review of its communication process and would be doing more to help customers understand the need for their potential PSPS. 

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