Senator McGuire’s bill to expedite utility improvements and safety measures to curb massive power shutoffs passes full Senate

Monday, June 29, 2020

Sacramento, CA – Last year, residents across Northern California endured multiple, sustained power shutoffs that put residents health and safety at risk, disrupted local economies and lacked oversight and planning. At one point, some Californians lost power for a total of 14 days in a one-month period.

Senator Mike McGuire’s legislation, SB 1312, will hold utilities accountable for grid hardening, modernization and vegetation management by expediting these improvements which will ensure power shutoffs have smaller footprints and shorter durations. The bill passed the full Senate with bipartisan support on Friday. 

“SB 1312 provides the framework to ensure that power shutoff events become the tool of last resort, and not the default strategy as we saw across Northern California last fall,” Senator Mike McGuire said. “PG&E, in particular, is years behind in grid modernization and hardening and this bill will advance an expedited schedule to make desperately needed modernizations and improvements to their system. The bill, along with previous state actions, will ensure these devastating shutoff events do not continue to disrupt and endanger the lives of Californians. Last fall cannot become the new normal.”

SB 1312 requires Investor-Owned Utilities (IOUs) to prioritize public health and safety as well as reliable electrical service that Californians deserve in this day and age.
Currently, the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) requires IOUs to fill out reports after Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) events. These reports, however, often lack key information and proper review. Out of the dozens of reports filed last fall, the CPUC conducted only one official review.
"Our state lacks a formal process for future reviews of shutoff events, and clearly the level of review without a process has been insufficient at best,” McGuire said. “This is simply not acceptable."
SB 1312 provides the necessary framework to shorten and decrease the frequency of PSPS events and to ultimately eliminate their use by requiring Investor Owned Utilities (IOUs) to take both short and long term steps to harden their infrastructure. To strengthen the existing PSPS process, SB 1312 does the following:

  • Require that IOUs identify power lines that are more likely to cause power shutoff events or wildfires.
  • Require IOUs to include details about the lines that cause the power shutoffs in their after-event reports, including how many miles of lines were impacted and how many circuits were impacted. This will allow state agencies to truly pinpoint and develop a fix-it plan.
  • Require IOUs to harden their infrastructure that caused the power shutoff event and report back to the CPUC on their progress one year after the shutoff event. Currently, utilities are behind in their hardening and vegetation management.
  • Require the CPUC to hold hearings to determine whether a power shutoff event is in accordance with standards and authorize the Commission to levy fines if needed.
  • Prohibit IOUs from charging Californians for electricity not provided during a power shutoff event when power is cut.
  • Authorize the California Office of Emergency Services (OES), CAL FIRE, and the CPUC to create consistent procedures for power shutoff events in the best interest of Californians by collaborating on what each agency needs, including the notification process, guidelines on how lines will be re-powered, and what the footprint of the outage will be. 
  • Require that IOUs identify and harden power lines that are more likely to cause PSPS events or wildfires within a four year timeline instead of the 12-14 years proposed by PG&E.

SB 1312 will now move to the Assembly in the coming weeks. SB 1312 is supported by California State Sheriffs’ Association, California Fire Chiefs Association, and the League of California Cities to name a few.