As the region has been pummeled recently by preventative power shutoffs leaving some residents without electricity to pump water or run medical equipment, state Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, has requested a special session of the Legislature in order to call for an audit of the practice by utilities such as Southern California Edison.
The Public Safety Power Shutoffs are called during periods of high fire risk as a means of preventing fires from starting from downed or damaged lines.
Once called, these shutoffs may continue for several days, until the weather conditions improve and the utility can inspect the lines for damage.
“California is the fifth largest economy in the world but when the wind blows the power goes out for millions of Californians. That is a totally unacceptable scenario yet, according to the (investor-owned utilities), it will be the new normal for the next decade,” Wilk said in a statement released Tuesday. “Last week, a teacher in my district watched her home burn to the ground. Without power her well was inoperable and there was no way to even pump water to a garden hose. How anyone could accept this as the ‘new normal’ is beyond me. I am calling for a full audit so we get to the bottom of the policies that put this in place.”
Wilk is calling for the State Auditor to investigate the California Public Utilities Commission guidelines for the practice, as well as the utilities’ practices.
The investigation would determine whether the power shutoffs are necessary or whether other, less burdensome, alternatives are being ignored and whether the utilities are cutting power as a means of avoiding maintenance or infrastructure investment.
“Calls for the PUC to investigate these shutoffs is like asking the fox to audit the hen house. The investigating agency must be completely independent from undue influence of both the administration and (investor-owned utilities),” Wilk said. “The State Auditor has a proven track record of independence and thoroughness in her investigations, “
Wilk’s request is one of several Legislators’ response to the issue of the Public Safety Power Shutoffs.
The state Senate will hold an oversight hearing on the matter on Nov. 18 to investigate the problems surrounding the outages.
Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, last month demanded the California Public Utilities Commission stop the shutoffs until effective plans to mitigate the impacts on residents are in place.
“These power shutoffs are ludicrous and wholly unjustifiable,” Lackey said at that time. “Ratepayers and consumers are being forced to deal with the consequences of a decade’s worth of poor decision-making by utility companies.”
During shutoffs late last month, Wilk and Lackey personally rented a generator for a retired veteran in need of oxygen whose power had been off for 24 hours.
The pair of Legislators have also requested help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for rural areas impacted by the shutoffs.
They requested personal generators and water deliveries for the areas impacted.