Los Angeles County is set to reach out to the state and the California Public Utilities Commission to address Southern California Edison’s power shutoffs in an effort to lessen the impacts on ratepayers, after a series of blackouts that left thousands in the dark over the holidays.
The move comes after the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved Tuesday a motion brought forth by county Supervisor Kathryn Barger. Her 5th District includes some of the communities most affected by the shutoffs, including Canyon Country, Acton and Agua Dulce.
SoCal Edison launched its Public Safety Power Shutoff program about three years ago to de-energize circuits in areas where weather conditions pose a high risk for wildfires.
“Over the past few years, we’ve seen the growing devastation of wildfires in our communities,” said Barger during the Tuesday meeting. “However, Edison’s efforts come at a cost to its customers. In less trying times, power shutoffs can be a significant nuisance. During a pandemic, when there are no other options available, they can be devastating.”
Barger and state lawmakers whose districts include the Santa Clarita Valley have heard from constituents about how the shutoffs have left residents without water and access to the internet and cell service, leaving them unable to receive emergency updates. Acton and Agua Dulce have faced five PSPS events since mid-October and the most recent shutoffs occurred on Thanksgiving Day and just before Christmas Eve when temperatures dropped below freezing levels.
The supervisors received nearly two dozen comments from the public in support of Barger’s motion, including from resident Ferdinand Metz.
“We are constantly getting our power shut off with no options. Sometimes it’s for days. Without a generator, I have to trash a lot of food. There must be a better solution. We don’t want brush fires either, but some kind of safe solution would be great,” read Metz’s comment.
Barger’s approved motion now allows the county to reach out to Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Los Angeles Delegation and the California Public Utilities Commission, whose rules allow for the shutoffs, and request reviews of SoCal Edison’s power shutoff program. The move could include joining the Acton Town Council’s efforts in reviewing the CPUC’s rules.
“The community of Acton has been particularly affected by SCE’s PSPS program, thus we are very grateful that the board is considering a variety of actions that will alleviate our burden and mitigate deleterious PSPS impacts on our residents,” read a comment in support of the motion as submitted by Jacqueline Ayer, Acton Town Council Utilities Committee chair.
The goal is to also address proper notification and communication to the impacted communities and to mandate certain requirements, such as the deployment of battery-backup systems and generator programs, for the continuation of power shutoffs, according to the motion.