California Governor Newsom On Major CPUC Investigation Into Utility Power Shutoffs

SACRAMENTO, CA (STL.News) California Governor Gavin Newsom issued the following statement on a major investigation by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) of utility-led Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS):“I want to see the CPUC launch a total reform of power shutoff rules and regulations.  Utilities must be held accountable and be aggressively penalized for their overreliance on PSPS, and the product of this investigation must be new rules and regulations to do that.  I also want to see customers not charged for PSPS.  It seems obvious, but under the current rules, utilities can do just that.  It’s unacceptable and must be remedied.”

Governor Newsom last week launched the $75 million Local Government PSPS Resiliency Program to support state and local government efforts to mitigate the impact of power shutoffs by supporting continuity of operations and efforts to protect public health, safety, and commerce in affected communities.  The Governor also announced new measures to help protect medically-vulnerable residents, including a PSPS Planning Team within the California Health and Human Services Agency, a partnership with Service Employees International Union and United Domestic Workers to ensure that In-Home Supportive Services providers are equipped with the information they need to care for some of the state’s most vulnerable, and a new resource guide outlining available resources for those in de-energization areas.​

In addition, Governor Newsom last week issued a letter to executives of the state’s three Investor-Owned Utilities 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 a letter to PG&E CEO William Johnson 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.

Under Governor Newsom’s leadership, California passed AB 1054, wildfire safety and utility reform legislation that expands the CPUC’s ability to hold utilities accountable for their safety record — a central part of the Governor’s wildfire safety actions.

The legislation created a new wildfire safety division at the CPUC and a board of independent expert advisors to more effectively regulate the safety of publicly owned utilities.  The law mandated that utilities tie executive compensation to safety performance, invest $5 billion in safety improvements without profit, and go through a new yearly wildfire safety review and certification process.  It also requires new inspections of utility electrical equipment. Under the law, utilities must create a wildfire safety committee in their corporate board, and provide direct board-level safety reporting to the CPUC.