Friday, 18 June 2021

Bill to allow governor, local governments to declare a PSPS state of emergency approved by key committee

With the 2021 California wildfire season only months away, legislation by Assemblymember Marc Levine (D – Marin County) to authorize a governor or local government to declare a state of emergency due to a public safety power shutoff was unanimously approved by the Assembly Emergency Management Committee last week.

The 2018, 2019 and 2020 wildfire seasons have been some of the most devastating in the state’s history, including the 2018 Paradise Camp fire, the single-deadliest wildfire in California’s history, and the 2020 wildfire season, producing the largest wildfire in California’s modern history.

In October 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.

After that event, PG&E’s then CEO William Johnson speculated that these blackout events could occur for another decade. While millions across the state were without power, the governor was forced to delay emergency response efforts because a PSPS event, a planned energy outage, did not meet the criteria of a state of emergency.

AB 1403 would add planned deenergization events, including PSPS events, to the list of conditions constituting a state of emergency declared by a governor or a local emergency declared by a local government.

This clarification is helpful to provide greater flexibility to local agencies to respond to PSPS events and to seek financial assistance from the state to recover costs associated with those activities.

“Heading into what could be another devastating wildfire season, California needs more tools that can be quickly deployed to protect lives and property across the state,” said Assemblymember Levine. “By allowing a governor or local government to declare a state of emergency due to a PSPS event, AB 1403 will make sure that resources are available quickly to protect our most vulnerable residents and help mitigate impacts caused by the generational neglect of electrical infrastructure by PG&E and others.”

AB 1403 now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for further consideration.

Levine represents California’s 10th Assembly District, which includes Marin and Sonoma counties.

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