Topanga Town Council

Public Safety Power Shutoff Motion

Screen Shot 2018 10 05 at 5.27.34 PM

LA County Supervisors Approve Motion to Review SCE's Controversial "Public Safety Power Shutoff" Program 

On Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed the following motion by Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Kathryn Barger regarding Southern California Edison's "Public Safety Power Shutoff" plan: Over the past two years, California residents have experienced some of the worst wildfires in the history of the state. The traditional length of the wildfire season has expanded. It now begins earlier and lasts longer. The threat of wildfires in our remote rural unincorporated areas has been exacerbated by extremely dry fuels due to climate change, the prolonged drought and beetle infestations. The number of annual red flag days in the Santa Monica Mountains has more than tripled since 2015 from 6 days to 20 days in 2017. Other county unincorporated high fire areas have experienced similar increases, as well.

Downed power lines have directly been the cause of several large wildfires in Los Angeles County, including the 2007 Malibu Canyon fire and the 2008 Sesnon fire. In an attempt to reduce wildfire risk and liability, Southern California Edison (SCE) is implementing a Public Safety Power Shutoff program (PSPS) through which the utility will be de-energizing the power grid in high-risk areas containing low moisture readings during severe wind conditions. SCE has installed a network of remote weather stations to monitor on the ground conditions and contends that the PSPS program will be a tool of last resort with as much advanced notice given to local residents as possible.

While de-energizing the electric grid can be an important tool to protect fire prone areas, we need to make very certain that the program does not lead to worse unintended consequences. Residents in high fire severity zones worry that if a fire breaks out, the power shutoff could leave them at greater risk. Questions regarding the availability of water, phone service, emergency alert systems, medical equipment, and impacts to other critical infrastructure remain unanswered. The County’s own emergency responders and critical service providers have expressed serious safety concerns related to the PSPS program. The County must immediately understand the impacts and unintended consequences of the PSPS program in order to appropriately plan for emergencies and protect our residents.

WE, THEREFORE, MOVE that the board direct the CEO in conjunction with the County’s emergency responders, critical service providers, and affected county departments to review SCE’s PSPS program and report back to the Board within 21 days with the following information:

1. Identification of the unincorporated areas most likely to be affected by Edison’s PSPS program including an estimate of the number of times the PSPS program would have been implemented in each community over the previous 5 years using SCE’s proposed criteria;

2. Potential impacts to critical infrastructure and emergency responders along with the risks associated with those impacts;

3. An analysis of any lessons learned from other jurisdictions, such as San Diego County where power shutoff procedures have been in use for a number of years;

4. An analysis of whether the identified impacts and risks can be mitigated including any recommendations for doing so;

5. Inventory and status of back-up systems with their state of repair, remaining useful life, and capacity to operate (hours/days); and

6. The report should also point out the back-up system types (Diesel/Battery) and replacement/Update needs at our critical facilities such as Hospitals, Dams, Yards, and other County operated facilities.