Levine Legislation to Streamline State of Emergency Response to Public Safety Power Shutoff Events Passes Legislature

For immediate release:

(SACRAMENTO, CA) - Legislation by Assemblymember Marc Levine (D-Marin County) to give a Governor the authority to declare a State of Emergency in response to a utility Public Safety Power Shut Off (PSPS), or deenergization event, passed the Legislature on Thursday last week. AB 1403 (Levine), which required a two-thirds vote in the Assembly and Senate due to an urgency clause attached to the measure, was approved by the State Senate in a 28 to 5 vote and the State Assembly concurred the Senate amendments on a 61-9 vote on Thursday. 

Under current law, the California Emergency Services Act authorizes a Governor to issue a State of Emergency if there are perilous conditions that threaten the personal safety of Californians and property. However, deenergization events do not fall clearly in the specified conditions of disaster within law to constitute a State of Emergency. Planned deenergization events shut off power temporarily to electric lines passing through high fire-threat areas. Throughout October of 2019, PG&E executed several Public Safety Power Shut Off (PSPS) events in an effort to reduce potential liability during the fire season. What resulted was a mismanaged and poorly planned series of PSPS events that affected millions of PG&E customers and left state and local government officials to respond to numerous public safety impacts.  

If signed into law, AB 1403 (Levine) will authorize a governor to declare a State of Emergency due to a PSPS event which will help the state better respond to PSPS events and quickly address harmful impacts on public health and safety caused by one of these events.

“In the midst of the 2019 wildfire season, we were left without power for days due to a PG&E planned deenergization event,” said Assemblymember Levine. “As we experienced the impacts of these large scale events for the first time, the Administration tried to determine whether they had the authority to declare a State of Emergency in response to a PSPS event. This bill explicitly adds planned deenergization events to the list of circumstances that would warrant a Governor to declare a State of Emergency to ensure Californians receive the necessary intervention quickly and without legislative obstacles.”