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[REGIONAL NEWS] California senator proposes legislation to limit PG&E power shutoffs

Posted by   /  September 7, 2019  /  No Comments

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Bill Shaw of the Calistoga grocery store Cal Mart is among the businesses worried about PG&E’s power shutoffs./Photo: Lacy Atkins / Special to the Chronicle

By Dustin Gardiner | San Francisco Chronicle

State Sen. Scott Wiener has proposed legislation that he says will prevent Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and other utilities from turning off power unnecessarily during wildfire-prone weather.

Wiener, D-San Francisco, said the state needs guardrails to limit the frequency and duration of planned shutoffs because utilities are inclined to flip the switch to avoid fire liability costs.

“Utilities now have a strong financial incentive to err on the side of blackouts — even when they aren’t necessary — and very little incentive to avoid large blackouts,” he said in a statement. “A utility, with as little as 24 hours notice, can announce a blackout that can last up to a week, even if the risk of fire is minimal.”

His proposal, SB378, would levy hourly fines against utilities during planned blackouts and prohibit them from charging ratepayers for service during that time.

Wiener’s bill would also allow people and businesses to bill utilities for costs they incur as a result of shutoffs, within two weeks of a blackout. Utility shareholders, not ratepayers, would be required to cover the tab.

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