Proposal to hold utilities accountable for power shutoffs moving through legislature


SACRAMENTO (KRON) — The Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday voted 4-2 to keep SB378 alive. 

The proposal puts a system in place in order for utilities to use public safety power shutoffs more precisely. 

“I’m thrilled this public safety legislation will get a vote in the full Senate.”

If utilities don’t follow guidelines set up in this state law, customers would be entitled to compensation. 

Utility companies like PG&E have said this would discourage them from using shutoffs — a tool they say helped possibly prevent major fires last fall.

“To be clear, we’re not trying to end planned blackouts,” said Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). “They play an important role in preventing wildfire, we need to make sure PG&E uses them as a scalpel and not a sledge hammer. Right now PG&E has been using them as a sledge hammer and does not need to consider the public safety and economic harm it’s causing.” 

Next month Sen. Wiener says he’ll file legislation to turn PG&E into a publicly owned utility. 

This comes as Gov. Gavin Newsom renews his threats to do just that if PG&E doesn’t get its act together in bankruptcy.

“We’ve alerted the governor’s office about what we’re doing just so they know there will be a bill to accomplish this,” the state senator said. “The governor hasn’t stated what he wants to happen, nor should he, he’s in a role trying  to make sure the right thing happens. I’m glad he has repeatedly stated public ownership is an option.” 

The proposal for more precise power shut offs comes in response to PG&E’s massive blackout in October that left 2.5 million Californians in the dark. 

The bill will be up for a vote on the Senate floor by the end of next week.

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