PG&E planning possible power shutoffs for 75 Kern County customers

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More than 70 PG&E customers in Kern County could be subject to a Public Safety Power Shutoff this week.

The utility said a shutoff may be needed as weather forecasts show hot, dry winds and an elevated fire risk. If initiated, 30 customers in Bakersfield, 41 in Arvin and four in Lebec would be affected by the shutoff. 

PG&E is already facing pressure after an emergency meeting in San Francisco Friday, where the California Public Utilities Commission demanded changes to the utility’s public safety power shutoff plan.

“(PG&E) admits that their website crashed twice, their call center was nonresponsive, their maps were inaccurate,” said Kern Chief Deputy County Counsel, Gurujodha Khalsa, who was at the meeting.

However, PG&E CEO Bill Johnson said it could take a decade to improve the utility’s electrical grid to avoid intentional power shutoffs. He still continued to defend the controversial practice.

“PG&E doesn’t really have a plan that’s working for the medically sensitive population,” Khalsa said.

Despite the fact that Governor Gavin Newsom urged PG&E to pay back its customers after the last shutoff, Khalsa noted, “there really was no commitment on behalf of PG&E to provide any type of rebate or reimbursement for folks who had been adversely impacted.”

At a board of supervisors meeting Tuesday, members voted to join a group of local governments that helps the CPUC set rules on future power shutoffs.

“I think this is an opportunity for Kern County to participate in not only the rule-making process, but phase two of the wildfire mitigation structure,” Khalsa said, “but also to provide direct feedback to the CPUC about the ongoing performance of PG&E because I think it’s going to result in taking people out of harm’s way.”

PG&E is still the process of chapter 11 bankruptcy after last year’s wildfires left it with $50 billion in estimated liabilities.

“This coalition of location governments could have a significant influence in bankruptcy court,” said 3rd district supervisor, Mike Maggard.

PG&E’s CEO sent a letter to Governor Newsom saying state leaders may want to consider having the state decide whether to shut off power in the future.

PG&E is expected to provide another update on Kern County shutoffs later this afternoon.

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