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California's SB 52 would let counties tap emergency funds during planned power outages

Senate Bill 52 seeks to broaden the definition of a “loss of power” in the Emergency Services Act to include Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS).

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The California Senate unanimously approved a bill that would make planned power outages eligible for official emergency declarations, which in turn would free up funds for local agencies.

Senate Bill 52, authored by Sen. Bill Dodd, (D – Napa), seeks to broaden the definition of a “loss of power” in the Emergency Services Act to include Pacific Gas and Electric Company's (PG&E) Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS).

“A PSPS has very significant impacts on various activities and populations in an effected region/county, including sustaining the needs of medically vulnerable residents, and continued and uninterrupted operations of critical public services,” a Senate analysis of the bill states. The full Senate analysis of the bill is included at the bottom of this article. 

Extreme fire weather conditions like gusty winds and dry heat can trigger a PSPS by PG&E. Because of the checks and safety inspections that follow the shutoffs, PG&E said it's possible thousands of customers could be without power for several days during these events.

“In order for public services to continue, and in order to ensure vulnerable populations are protected, counties open emergency operation centers to coordinate and oversee the maintenance of public safety health and welfare. Activation of county emergency operation centers is expensive and a drain on county funds,” the bill states.

If signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom, SB 52 would let counties seek reimbursement for the costs of running emergency operation centers.

“Shutting off the power to prevent wildfires has become an unfortunate reality here in California, but doing so carries significant costs. My bill ensures these de-energizations are classified as local emergencies, allowing local agencies to recover expenses from available funding,” Sen. Dodd said.

After passing the Senate, SB 52 will now head through the same process of committees and a floor vote in the State Assembly. If it clears those hurdles, it will be sent to Gov. Newsom for a signature. That could happen in September or possibly sooner, Dodd’s office said. 

If signed into law, the bill would go into effect in January 2022.

Read more from ABC10

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