PG&E’s safety power shutoff program during wildfire season

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – Ever since PG&E announced they would be expanding their public safety power shutoff program, people have been on edge. 

The company says as we enter wildfire season, residents across the Bay Area should be prepared to go several days without power. 

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo says not only are these blackouts a public safety risk, but they could also lead to economic losses in impacted communities. 

He feels the public simply can’t trust PG&E to make that decision on their own. 

“When there are life and safety impacts on the public, we need to have a decision maker that’s accountable to the public. Not someone simply accountable to PG&E shareholders,” Liccardo said. 

A strong stance against the company that supplies power to 16 million Californians.

Mayor Liccardo says without oversight from local governments, he feels PG&E’s public safety power service program is not trustworthy. 

“I am concerned this is not an agency that has the safety of my community or anyone else’s community in their mind and I have very good reason to have those concerns based on the track record of PG&E over the last decade,” Liccardo said. 

In hopes of reducing wildfires this summer, the California Public Utilities Commission who gave PG&E the ability to proactively shut off power, stands by their decision, making it clear the measure is a last resort.

In a statement released on Monday, they said:

“The CPUC has set up parameters and guidelines for Public Safety Power Shut-offs (PSPS) in order to ensure, among other things, appropriate customer notification, especially for those most vulnerable. PSPS is to be used as a preventative measure of last resort when the utility reasonably believes that there is an imminent and significant risk that strong winds may topple power lines or cause major vegetation-related issues leading to increased risk of fire.”

California Public Utilities Commission Spokesperson

PG&E says they plan to give 48 hours notice if and when they need to pull the plug

“We know that presents challenges on both ends whether its first responders or others, we know this is not an easy thing, and it’s not a decision that’s taken lightly. We’ve been working with local govs utilities and other first responders well in advance to talk about public safety shut off, what this means for them and how we can work together,” Tamar Sarkissian with PG&E said.

But those talks haven’t convinced Mayor Liccardo and he wants local emergency operations teams in the room when PG&E is making the decisions. 

“From our conversations so far with PG&E, it’s not apparent  to us that sufficient preparations have been made to ensure the people are safe. We want to ensure there is a veto by someone that has the health and safety of the public foremost in their minds,” Liccardo said.

Mayor Liccardo says they’re having a meeting with PG&E on Tuesday to talk about plans, making sure they have enough back up generators and other mechanisms to assist the public.

But he’s also planning to put together a coalition of cities that will try to changePG&E’s control of the grid. 

PG&E, of course, is encouraging customers across the Bay Area to update their contact information with them so they can inform you if and when a blackout is going to happen.

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