As Wildfire Threat Looms, State Senate Refuses to Act on Levine Public Safety Power Shutoff Emergency Legislation
(SACRAMENTO, CA) – A dry spring and hot a summer. A forested tinderbox ready to explode with a spark. A State Senator whose district has been devastated by wildfires unwilling to act. Assemblymember Marc Levine (D – Marin County) today called on Senator Bill Dodd (D – Napa) and the Senate Governmental Organization Committee to have his legislation, allowing a state or local state of emergency to be declared as a result of a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) heard and voted upon before the legislature’s adjournment at the end of August.
AB 2178 (Levine) would add a PSPS to the list of conditions constituting a local or state of emergency declared by a governor or local government. In October 2019, PG&E initiated a series of PSPS events that left millions of Californians without electricity. The unprecedented scale of these power shutoffs significantly impacted first responders and left millions of residents and small businesses scrambling to find alternative sources of electricity. Because the PSPS was a planned electrical outage, it did not meet the existing definition of emergency, delaying state and local government emergency declarations. AB 2178 will give a governor and local leaders explicit authority to declare an emergency based upon a PSPS and ensure the rapid deployment of resources needed during this type of emergency.
During the week of October 7, 2019, PG&E initiated a PSPS, forcing blackouts on over 2 million Californians, preventing 130,000 students from attending school and causing economic losses estimated in the billions. A second PSPS blackout in late October 2019 impacted nearly 1,000,000 Californians in Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, El Dorado, Fresno, Glenn, Humboldt, Kern, Lake, Madera, Marin, Mariposa, Mendocino, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, San Joaquin, Shasta, Sierra, Tehama, Trinity, Tuolumne and Yuba counties.
The October 2019 PSPS also left residents, businesses and first responders in Senator Dodd’s wildfire prone district without power for days – leaving vulnerable communities in Dodd’s Napa, Solano, Sonoma and Yolo counties in the dark.
Given the disproportionately harmful impacts that PSPS events have had on Senator Dodd’s district, it is unclear why he is refusing to hear Levine’s AB 2178. To date, the only opposition AB 2178 has received is from for-profit energy companies.
“Wildfire season is upon us, yet Senator Bill Dodd is refusing to protect high fire risk areas of the state, including his own district,” said Assemblymember Levine. “Residents and businesses in Sonoma County alone, which Senator Dodd and I both represent, were devastated by a decade of wildfires and the 2019 Public Safety Power Shutoffs. Now, in the middle of a global pandemic, our state and local governments need more tools, not less to protect the communities we serve. I respectfully request that Senator Dodd reconsider his decision not to hear AB 2178 and agendize the bill at the Committee’s next scheduled hearing. Wildfires will not wait for Senator Dodd to take action necessary to protect Californians and their property. We must take action now.”
Senator Dodd’s Governmental Organization Committee is scheduled to hold its next hearing on August 14.
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