Opinion - BOS should Declare PG&E "State of Emergency" - not Helplessness!

by Placerville Newswire / Nov 05, 2019 / comments

<Kirk Callan Smith posted in Debating El Dorado County Local Politics>

Wouldn't it be nice if local politicians did more about the PG&E mess than just rake them over the coals a few times? You know, some action beyond just words.

As just an example, take a look at Nevada City, Grass Valley and the County of Nevada that came together to send the California Public Utilities Commission a letter calling for better oversight of power shutoffs by PG&E. Wouldn’t it be nice if the Placerville City Council and our Board of Supervisors joined in? Or took some other action?

The November 5th letteris addressed to CPUC President Marybel Batjer and members of the commission, and makes four specific demands:

- Ensure cellular and landline communication services are maintained throughout every PSPS event

- Provide  health and safety amenities, such as access to subsidized generators and oxygen to vulnerable populations and healthcare service providers for each PSPS event

- Ensure timely, accurate and consistent communication is provided to all utility customers and community stakeholders to mitigate undue financial hardship to residents and businesses

- Require that PSPS events are targeted as precisely as possible so as to prevent unnecessary power interruption across broad regions.

"We need to see that the independently owned utilities take more responsibilities for the impacts of these PSPS experiences," said Nevada County Supervisor Ed Scofield.

Grass Valley Mayor Lisa Swarthout said the utility's inability to more precisely shut down power in specific areas has put a significant financial burden on the city's regional hospital.

"Our hospital was completely shut down during the first (shutoff) event, and they were running that facility with two big diesel generators at 100 gallons of diesel an hour," she said. "So, the cost of that is, you know, devastating for a small regional hospital like we have."

Swarthout added that some residents lost all communication, both cellular and landline during the outages, which left them in danger.  "They had no ability to receive warnings for the, you know, if we were going to have a code red or a fire alert or to call out if they had an emergency at their home," Swarthout said.

The letter states there are 332 full-service restaurants in Nevada City, Grass Valley and unincorporated Penn Valley that have suffered significant losses.  "The aggregate average daily impact to these food service business owners are estimated around $398,400 a day with $1,195,200 in loss for a three-day PSPS event. Locally-owned grocery stores are hard hit, with inventory loss in the hundreds of thousands of dollars in perishable food products in addition to lost sales revenue. These long-standing locally-owned businesses are less equipped to absorb such extraordinary financial losses than their corporate competitors.” All of these things could be said about our communities.

Already, Nevada City Mayor Reinette Senum has signed an emergency declaration, which is temporary but likely to ratified next week. She said economic losses were the motivation behind the declaration.

Duane Strawswer, a Nevada City councilmember, said the best outcome would be Gov. Gavin Newsom compelling the utility to pay out the losses.  "I think the best thing is that the governor actually mandates PG&E step up, period. Or we change some laws with our elected officials at the state level so that they can't duck out of this because of the bankruptcy," he said.

EDC Locals Respond to above post:

Bill Thorpe - "I wrote a letter to the county Board of Supervisors. This is the response I got from every supervisor that responded. Obviously this was prepared by county council. "PG&E is regulated by the State; the County has no authority or influence over its practices. We strive to provide as much notice and information as possible to inform residents via social media and press releases about possible power shut offs and what residents can do to prepare in the event of a shut off." Like most critical issues in the county I do not expect the county Board of Supervisors to take on any kind of serious challenge. Actually this is an advantage to citizens who want to self organize put a plan together and move forward. Again there is no leader ship from the county board of supervisors in this county for anything other than big box retail and rooftops. Take advantage of their ineptitude and organize."

Evelyn Veerkamp - "So . . . BOS proclaims helplessness. Too bad, so sad EDC residents & businesses."

Kirk Callan Smith - "Well, Bill, at least you got a reply, though shabby. I wrote one to the city a couple weeks ago and have not heard a thing since."

Michelle Meyer - "The response that no only did the BOS gave along with our LEO was to make sure we keep up with all social media to ensure our safety. Well that's be great if my internet as well as my cell service wasn't shut down as well. So, yes, it's time for our BOS to take a stand for their people they are suppose to be working for. We were in McKinleyville for the last shut down, you know they got texts/emails giving them actual times as to when to have power off and then again when the power was to be restored. All we got was that at some point on such and such day it will be turned off and then nothing as to when we could expect it to be back on, well we got notified after it had turned back on."

George Turnboo - "We need to look into claiming a state of emergency by the BOS for our county"

Jackye Phillips - "That was what Nevada County did. The PSPS was pourly planned and instituted. Nevada County has obviously already identified issues and problems and the letter they sent is a good start for El Dorado County"

Barbara Driskell Rogers - "The BOS need to grow a pair and stand with communities such as Nevada City, Grass Valley and Nevada County. We cannot allow our elected officials to continually put their heads in the sand and ignore this situation. Stand up for your people BOS."