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Climate and Environment

State Regulators Say Edison Botched Preventative Power Outages During Red Flag Fire Days

Power outage in Acton
A view of the L.A. River
(Sharon McNary
/
LAist)
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State regulators have ordered Southern California Edison to make significant changes in how it goes about turning off electricity to homes and businesses in high fire risk areas during red flag alert days.

The power outages that Edison has been imposing to keep its equipment from starting fires have been problematic for the past three years, although Thursday’s order stemmed from an investigation into 2019 shutoffs.

Customers have complained that they received too little advance notice, and very little help during outages when a lack of power in some rural areas can mean water and internet service is also cut off.

The Public Utilities Commission said Edison did a poor job communicating with the public about the protective outages, using the utility’s hard-to-read maps as an example.

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It noted that while Edison set up small community resource centers in blacked-out communities, the public didn't know about them, and the services they provided, like snacks and phone charging devices, were not sufficiently helpful.

The utility had delays dealing with officials when outages affected critical operations, like the state prison in Tehachapi and a water treatment plant in Beaumont. It also had difficulty getting its messages about the outages circulated in languages other than English, even though many of its customers speak Spanish and other languages.

There's also a money penalty. The Public Utilities Commission ordered Edison to hold off on billing customers whose power is cut during future public safety power shutoffs until the utility improves the way it identifies and reports the harms done to its customers during outages.

An Edison spokesman said many of the improvements ordered by the commission are already completed or in the works.