June 17, 2021
Did utility companies fail to protect public safety before wildfires struck?
SAN FRANCISCO – (INT) – California’s three largest providers of electricity are being taken to task for failing to protect public safety when it shut down circuits during the fall, 2019 fire season.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) says the utility companies should be held accountable for safely implementing the Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) events.

Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas and Electric and Pacific Gas and Electric dropped power to thousands of customers on the chance their infrastructure might ignite catastrophic wildfires.

The CPUC said the utilities must be held accountable to safely implement future shutdowns and ordered several actions:

Revenue Remedy
• Forgo collection of revenues from customers that are associated with electricity not sold during future PSPS events until it can be demonstrated that utilities have made improvements in identifying, evaluating, weighing, and reporting public harm when determining whether to initiate a PSPS event.
Corrective Actions
• Take corrective actions to improve future compliance with the CPUC’s existing PSPS guidelines.
• Improve, among other things, communications with customers dependent on electricity for medical reasons, especially life support, before, during, and after a PSPS event.
Continual Learning
• Share best practices and lessons learned for initiating, communicating, reporting, and improving all aspects of PSPS events by regularly holding utility working group meetings.
Emergency Training
• Provide Standard Emergency Management System (SEMS) training for all personnel and contractors involved in PSPS planning.
• File annual reports describing progress and status on improving compliance with PSPS guidelines.
• Support the CPUC’s Safety and Enforcement Division’s development of a standardized 10-day post-event reporting template. Post-event reporting facilitates learning and improvement across utilities, state, and local public safety agencies and local jurisdictions.

As to the 2019 shutdowns, the CPUC determined there was ineffective coordination with public safety partners, inadequate consideration of the access and functional needs communities, and lack of reasonable consideration of the public safety risks.

Story Date: June 11, 2021
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