GEYSERVILLE – As utility-initiated Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) continue to impact residents across California, Governor Gavin Newsom today launched the Local Government PSPS Resiliency Program to mitigate the impact on Californians by supporting continuity of operations and efforts to protect public health, safety, and commerce in affected communities.
“PG&E failed to maintain its infrastructure and Californians are facing hardship as a result. For decades, they have placed greed before public safety,” said Governor Newsom. “We must do everything we can to support Californians, especially those most vulnerable to these events. These funds will help local governments address these events and assist their most vulnerable residents.”
The Governor traveled to Sonoma County today to survey areas impacted by the Kincade Fire and meet with emergency responders, residents, health officers and local and state officials.
Governor Newsom and the State Legislature included a $75 million one-time General Fund appropriation in the 2019 Budget Act to support state and local government efforts to protect public safety, vulnerable populations and individuals and improve resiliency in response to utility-led PSPS actions. The funding will focus on jurisdictions where there is heightened PSPS vulnerability.
Half of the funds will be allocated to local governments – at least $150,000 will be awarded to all 58 counties with additional funding based on county size and experience with PSPS. The cities of Los Angeles, San Jose, San Diego, and Oakland will receive $500,000 each. A total of $8 million will support competitive grants available to other incorporated cities and $1.5 million will be available in competitive grants for tribal governments.
The grant funding can be used to secure equipment, such as generators and/or generator connections, fuel storage or other backup energy sources for essential facilities, such as fire stations, community centers, health facilities and other facilities that are critical to communities’ function during energy interruptions, backup emergency communications equipment, and developing and conducting plans that better prepare communities for PSPS events, including risk assessment for critical infrastructure and equipping resource centers for the public to access. The grants will be administered by the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.
The program provides $37.5 million for state agencies and departments to ensure continuity of operations and public services statewide.
This week, the Governor issued a letter to executives of the three investor-owned utilities in the state, Pacific Gas and Electric, San Diego Gas and Electric and Edison International, demanding they adhere to previously agreed protocols for PSPS decisions, and to coordinate with state and local officials to protect public safety and limit the impact of these events. He also issued letter to PG&E CEO William Johnson earlier this week, demanding the utility do more to provide information for customers and take action to reduce the number of customers impacted. Earlier this month, Governor Newsom urged PG&E to provide affected customers an automatic credit or rebate of $100 per residential customer and $250 per small business as some compensation for their hardships.
Since the first days of his administration, Governor Newsom has taken decisive action to protect Californians from wildfires:
- Expedited wildfire prevention projects to protect 200 of California’s most wildfire-vulnerable communities.
- Awarded $20 million in block grants to improve forest health and increase fire resiliency.
- Joined with Governors Kate Brown of Oregon and Jay Inslee of Washington in requesting President Trump double the federal government’s financial investment in managing federal forestlands in California, Washington and Oregon.
- Deployed the California National Guard to assist CAL FIRE with emergency hazardous fuels-management projects.
- Launched an “Innovation Procurement Sprint” to get the most cutting-edge tools into the field and tackle the wildfire threat, resulting in two pilot projects to help modernize wildfire prevention and response.
- Partnered with XPRIZE to design an incentive prize for innovation to battle wildfires.
- Secured delegation of authority from the Secretary of Defense to fly Cal Guard’s infrared equipped Unmanned Aerial System in support of CAL FIRE missions.
- Partnered with the federal government to secure state access to satellite-based technology to detect wildfire ignitions.
- Accelerated publication of new Emergency Alert and Warning Guidelines, ahead of wildfire season.
The Governor worked with the Legislature to enact laws that will make California more resilient to wildfires and hold utilities accountable. The bills reflect the recommendations from the Governor’s Strike Force report:
- AB 1054 by Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) holds PG&E accountable for prioritizing safety and requires the California Public Utilities Commission to take a number of actions to require our investor-owned utilities make investments in wildfire prevention and response. AB 1054’s provisions include:
- Improve the investor-owned utilities’ assessment of wildfire risk and match increased investments to risk reduction through the Wildfire Mitigation Plan process.
- Improve safety expertise, by creating a new wildfire safety division at the CPUC, which will transition to a separate Office of Energy Infrastructure Safety in the Natural Resources Agency in two years. (Combined with AB 111, AB 1054’s companion bill)
- Create the California Wildfire Safety Advisory Board, a panel of world-class experts in wildfire risk and utility infrastructure, to advise the wildfire safety division to ensure the strongest possible standards are put in place, and the utilities are held to them.
- Ensure oversight of the utilities’ plans, require utilities to invest in wildfire prevention and eliminate shareholder profit on $5 billion of safety investments.
- Hold utilities to an increasingly stringent safety standard, which includes requirements to tie executive compensation to safety, safety culture improvements and direct reporting to the CPUC by members of the investor-owned utility boards of directors.
- AB 38 by Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa) provides mechanisms to develop best practices for community-wide resilience against wildfires through home hardening, defensible space, and other measures.
- SB 190 by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) includes a specific requirement to develop best models for defensible space and additional standards for home hardening and construction materials to increase the resilience of communities.
- SB 70 by Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) requires IOUs to include information about consideration of undergrounding utility lines in their Wildfire Mitigation Plans (WMPs).
- SB 167 by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) requires IOUs to improve their WMPs by including specified requirements to mitigate the impacts of PSPS.
- SB 247 by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) requires increased oversight of the IOUs’ WMPs, enhances requirements for fair wages and improves safety by ensuring a skilled and trained workforce.
- SB 209 by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) requires establishment of a new weather technology center modeled after the state’s intelligence fusion centers.
- AB 836 by Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) establishes a program for retrofits of air ventilation systems to create community clean air centers, prioritizing areas with high cumulative smoke exposure burden.
- AB 661 by Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) requires the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District to prepare a wildfire smoke air pollution emergency plan to serve as an informational source for local agencies and the public during an air pollution emergency caused by wildfire smoke.
- SB 560 by Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) will mitigate impacts of PSPS.
- SB 160 by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) will improve engagement with culturally diverse communities for local emergency planning.
- SB 670 by Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) will improve the coordination of emergency communication systems during 9-1-1 outages.
- SB 632 by Senator Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) sets a deadline for completion of CAL FIRE’s vegetation management environmental review.
- AB 1823 by Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) which facilitates fuel reduction and other forest health projects.
The Governor’s budget made vital investments in resilience to help the state prepare for wildfires:
- $75 million to build resiliency and surge capacity among state and local government agencies in in the event of a utility company’s decision to initiate a Public Safety Power Shutoff.
- $38.7 million to expand the state’s capacity for emergency response
- $730,000 to help streamline hazardous fuel treatment programs.
- $41 million to fund inspections and improve review of utility companies’ wildfire mitigation programs.
- $225.8 million, from cap-and-trade revenues and General Fund, for forest health, fuel reduction and other wildfire prevention efforts — including $200 million of SB 901 funds allocated annually for 5 years.
- $50 million for Listos California, a new emergency preparedness outreach campaign.
- $60 million, including $10 million in FY19 and a revised fee structure that goes into effect next year, to upgrade California’s archaic 9-1-1 system and $1 million for first responder broadband network and integration with the 9-1-1 system.
- $67.5 million to expand firefighting surge capacity.
- $127.2 million for C-130 Air Tankers and twenty-first century firefighting helicopters.
- $130.3 million for better communication equipment for first responders.
- $24.7 million for CAL FIRE to procure innovation solutions to the wildfire crisis via the Innovation Procurement Sprint, operate Fire Detection Cameras, and enhance Situational Awareness Staffing.
- $711,000 for a statewide Disaster Reserve Corps.
Your plate is full with power company equipment failures sparking wildfires and throwing California into the dark ages via frequent and any-minute PSPS events. Your plan implemented to address these issues is action-packed and builds support for impacted agencies serving California communities. Community resource centers help defray some of the impacts of PSPS events for individuals. Medical issues reliant on continuity of power are critical and PG&E’s turning over a list of their medical-need consumers to someone else “to handle” is not a solution and PG&E owes a duty of care to ensure their actions are supportive and don’t endanger or recklessly cause these medically vulnerable consumers harm.
Decades of rate hikes requested and received by PG&E promised in return, their assured safe and reliable continuity of power services. When put to the test, we find PG&E failed to follow-up with the system enhancements promised. PG&E’s business model, in fact, meets the performance criteria reserved for power industry companies that are “learning”. This measure doesn’t match the performance claims and promises PG&E made over the decades while billing consumers incrementally increased rates to cover costs of these delivery enhancements that were promised, but never implemented. What it amounts to today, as their equipment failures destroy entire cities and human life, is PG&E executive and stockholder unjust enrichment at the recklessly disregarded and undue, irreversible expense of over-billed consumers.
Sanctions and fines levied against PG&E for their over-abundance of blatant regulation and probationary violations is a budgetary expected cost of doing business for PG&E, no more debilitating than their extraordinarily increasing outlay of lobbying dollars in recent years. The latter served to shove their liabilities for their 2017 fire disaster damages in Sonoma off onto the backs of consumers, including those least able to afford it, whose cities and infrastructures PG&E burned to the ground the following year.
Monetary sanctions and fines collected and absorbed by judicial and regulating authorities do nothing to remedy the insidious burdens of consumer exploitation being piled like insult onto injuries from and by PG&E.
Cities and counties are as harmed as consumers by the predictable outcome of PG&E’s failure to keep their end of the bargain for decades. Their management decisions were driven by fiscal policies based on an unsanctioned theory of greed and unjust enrichment. It was never a contingency question of whether the present chaotic break down of their business model would occur. It was only a recklessly disregarded contingency question of when PG&E’s self-serving bubble would burst.
For all the ill outcomes of PG&E’s poor management decisions, it’s hard to ignore the enormity of fault that lies in the conclusion that monopolizing California’s power structure was a good idea. It’s one that learned nothing from childhood teachings, “Never put all your eggs in one basket.”
In all the calamity of mistake-filled decisions and regulatory sanctions, judicial fines, and legislative law-making, a silent minority is often hailed with seemingly admirable good intent, though never effectively appearing as a remedied part of the solutions, being namely, the fixed or low income consumer.
A medical condition reliant on a continuity of safe, reliable power may be said to go hand-in-hand with a fixed or low income. Resource centers are, realistically speaking, little more than a token bottom line last resources of choice for this demographically vulnerable segment of society. Generally closing every evening, Resource Centers are not designed or intended to function in substitution of PG&E’s failed provision of a safe, reliable continuity of power. They’re equipped as a time-limited resource of warming heat, electronic recharge, and community engagement and exchange of thoughts, feelings, and ideas that in their own right, can prove very beneficial to many attending community members.
Meanwhile, I spend my hours during outages as a member of the silent minority mentioned earlier, with a metabolic, multi-systemic disorder that inhibits autonomic response to changes in outside environmental temperatures. In cold weather encountered without access to heat, it causes near hypothermia, turning my fingers and toes purple, and grows increasingly, extremely painful until it’s disabling, taking hours to relieve on access to hot water and warm temperatures. In hot weather without a resource of coolness, it rapidly drives up my inner core temperature to a point of physical exhaustion, nausea, and heightened cardio load causing my heart rate to accelerate out of control until it “stumbles” into atrial fibrillation.
Loss of power has long been one of my greatest fears and a slightest threat that my power could be shut off terrifies me. The frequent and all-at-once PSPS power shut downs for indeterminate amounts of time are unbearably stressful as potentially life threatening events. But for the resource-limited relief provided by my car’s interior temperature controls and the continuity of propane heated water even when power is shut off, the probability for these power outages to present greatly increased potential to create an instant death situation is very high.
PG&E’s providing my name and location to enable someone else to come around and “check how (I’m) doing” without access to power, is an unacceptable solution, and more a shortfall in their duty of care as a strict liability provider promising and entrusted to capably plan, implement, and properly manage their safe and reliable provision of uninterrupted power services. This duty includes diligent monitoring and analysis of environmental factors, and formulating contingency plans to address foreseeable developments indicated in their analysis. San Diego’s timely adaption to environmental changes is in stark contrast to PG&E’s “run it ‘til it fails” approach.
PG&E’s foreseeable contingency planning capability is shown in their risk analysis of this very approach as applied to their failed tower equipment that sparked the Camp Fire disaster. At most, PG&E surmised their “run it ‘til it fails” maintenance policy put at risk a population “no greater than 1k” (not with standing PG&E’s audacious idea that their endangerment of even 1,000 people is an acceptable risk).
In conclusion, my forty-plus year’s of monthly payment in exchange for PG&E’s promised professional level of knowledge and expertise as a power industry provider accounts for something. After all, PG&E is also handsomely rewarded with their decades-long, state sanctioned monopolized market control, something unseen in our otherwise competitively capitalistic business environment.
My surmountable contribution to PG&E is especially notable for the large sums paid for promised service enhancements sold, but never provided.
With access to these deceptively extorted sums, I could build a home with its own self-sustaining alternative power supply or one that’s “off the grid”. And the health challenges presented by PG&E’s power outages would be gone.
That, unfortunately, will never happen even though in a world with all things held constant, it would.
In the alternative, appropriated funding considerations given in more direct address of the dire and often deadly predicament these power outages unduly impose on the silent minority whose well-being is reliant on PG&E’s promised continuity of power, seems aptly appropriate, reasonable, and necessary.
PG&E has already publicly stated a refusal to follow your suggested provision of $100 and $250 to residential and business consumers, claiming a basis that their doing so would mess up their bankruptcy proceedings.
It seems presumable they cannot be counted on to follow through on their long-overdue promise of safe and reliable continuity of power services, by their substitute provision of generators while they catch up with themselves, even for those left most vulnerable to their shortfall.
California’s failing power structure extends beyond PG&E’s poor management and decision making skills, based on unsanctioned fiscal theories highly predictable to one day self implode with catastrophic results.
Legislative, judicial, and executive decision making that led to a statewide monopolized power structure is where it began. And the public’s ongoing acquiescence helped to keep it there.
Now that our power bubble has predictably burst, there’s no equal justice in continuing to ignore the needs of the silent minority already left most vulnerable by the inscrutable practices of a larger than life power company.
We’re literally being left to freeze to death by mere fact of our limited fixed income. These are already difficult economic times only worsened by these bizarre circumstances spiraling further and further beyond our control with no recourse for relief.
The creative out-of-the-box solutions you’ve proved yourself capable to generate, plan, and effectively implement to strengthen recovery of our state, county, and city governmental agencies are what’s needed here to ensure inclusion of our silent minority for the overall, equally just, and more complete success of your recovery plan.
Simple provision of reasonable means of equal access to generators is all it takes.
Your action packed, and bold stand up style is very notable and things I personally appreciate a great deal. I’m almost glad for these catastrophic circumstances and the opportunities they bring to watch you face off and run right through it. Very impressive, indeed. Thank you, just for the you of you, given the limitations of our English vocabulary sometimes when trying to express myself. But I’m somehow confident you’ll get the gist of my meaning.