After an unprecedented month of planned power outages across California affecting millions of people and hurting those in need of electricity the most, the California Senate has announced an oversight hearing on the issue.
The Senate Energy, Utilities, and Communications Committee will hold the hearing and investigate the public safety blackouts that PG&E has instituted in Northern California. The committee will also look into the current problems with the power shutoff system and find remedies for the numerous problems the blackouts have brought to affected citizens.
In addition, a Senate group led by Senator Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) will be studying the planned blackout issue.
In recent weeks a large number of calls, emails, and letters from affected citizens have been flooding the offices of state Assembly members, Senators, and even the Governor. The large public outcry and the flippant response of PG&E incensed lawmakers of both parties, which in turn caused the quick response from the Senate.
Lawmakers, especially those in affected districts, have made it clear why the Senate investigation will be taking place.
“The unprecedented shutdowns clearly demonstrated that the company was not prepared to handle implementation of the shutoffs,” Senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel) said in a Monterey Herald editorial Wednesday. Customers were not able to access important information about the events and PG&E’s responses to the shutoffs have been unacceptable. They should have been prepared, but have not been, in large part due to their past record of neglecting the maintenance and upkeep of their utility lines and infrastructure.”
“Additional oversight is needed to ensure that PG&E changes its ways and, in the coming weeks, the State Senate will conduct investigative hearings on what has happened, as well as to keep pressure on the company to ensure adherence to public safety and a stable electrical grid.”
“I understand and share your frustration with PG&E,” continued Senator Monning. “The number one objective in our oversight is ratepayer safety and security and to make sure that a safe and reliable energy grid is fortified and maintained.”
Senator Atkins also had comment going into next month’s hearing.
“California has endured severe wildfires throughout its history, but as we have seen in recent years, the threat to our communities and our economy have never been greater,” said Senator Atkins. “The 2017 and 2018 wildfire seasons were the deadliest and most destructive in state history, and the risks are only increasing. This crisis is far from over. We must view wildfire safety and prevention as an ongoing priority that will require persistence, collaboration and creativity over the long term.”
In addition to the Senate’s investigation, Governor Newsom has instituted his own measures. As a leading local critic against the PG&E blackouts, Newsom has been starting more programs and partnerships to help blackout victims and has also been pushing for PG&E to pay more fines and payments to victims of the Northern California blackouts.
The oversight hearing is currently set to begin November 18th.