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Washington May 7, 2020 – Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today called on the California Public Utilities Commission to continue expedited deployment of electric grid resilience projects across California during preparation for the upcoming wildfire season and the ongoing COVID-19 response efforts.

            “After direction from the CPUC, California utilities have worked to prepare for the upcoming 2020 wildfire season to implement microgrids, harden their infrastructure, increase vegetation management, and improve their technological capabilities,” Senator Feinstein wrote. “However, it is clear that when wildfire season begins, public safety power shutoffs will begin again as well. Consistent communication with communities (particularly targeted to those most vulnerable), more information sharing with telecommunications companies, and better public planning is critical, especially during the unique health emergency we’re currently facing.”

            Full text of the letter follows:

May 7, 2020

President Marybel Batjer

California Public Utilities Commission

505 Van Ness Avenue

San Francisco, CA 94102

Dear President Batjer:

            I write to express my support for the recent proposals by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to expedite deployment of electric grid resilience projects across California as the state prepares for the 2020 wildfire season and amidst the COVID-19 response efforts.

            Wildfires have devastated California in recent years as the impacts of climate change become more tangible and utilities have failed to adequately maintain their infrastructure. As you well know, preemptive power shut-offs during high risk events became even more prevalent in 2019. While often prudent, these de-energization events left millions of Californians both without power and without the information needed to understand their scope and duration.

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            After direction from the CPUC, California utilities have worked to prepare for the upcoming 2020 wildfire season to implement microgrids, harden their infrastructure, increase vegetation management, and improve their technological capabilities. However, it is clear that when wildfire season begins, public safety power shutoffs will begin again as well. Consistent communication with communities (particularly targeted to those most vulnerable), more information sharing with telecommunications companies, and better public planning is critical, especially during the unique health emergency we’re currently facing.

            Specifically, the strong standards proposed for regional working groups, coordination with public safety and communications carriers with actionable information to re-energize within 24 hours of conditions dissipating, and a focus on the needs of medical baseline customers is paramount. Further, the streamlined microgrid approval process for projects that can be in place by September 1 is pragmatic as we seek to minimize disruptions, especially as we work and learn from home.

            Ensuring the safety and resiliency of the California power grid is critical as we prepare for the 2020 wildfire season, and I strongly support the Commission’s efforts to proceed in this deliberate manner.

Sincerely,

Dianne Feinstein

United States Senator