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LA County Pushing Edison To Stop Power Outages

Edison workers replace cables to harden the grid (Kyle Grillot/LAist)
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Los Angeles County is pressing Southern California Edison to stop cutting off power to homes and businesses to accomplish power system upgrades while people are staying at home helping slow the spread of the coronavirus.

At a time like this, entire families are home from work and school, relying on TV and the Internet. And many of them have refrigerators and freezers stocked with food to avoid going shopping or out to eat. So it’s a bad time for a power outage.

Last week, Southern California Edison promised to stop cutting power to homes for some routine maintenance jobs. But the company insists it has to move forward with upgrades to make its power lines and other equipment less likely to start fires.

Edison says that 461 of its 1,265 power system upgrade projects are for this reason.

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The company already faces high liability costs for fires that its aging power poles and wires sparked in the Thomas Fire in Santa Paula and lawsuits brought in the Woolsey Fire in Los Angeles County.

The County Counsel filed a complaint with the state Public Utilities Commission to get the outages to stop, but the commission declined to take action. So county and Edison representatives are continuing to negotiate the duration and conditions of outages.

Edison spokeswoman Caroline Choi said the company had added extra personnel and rented generators to help shorten the duration of outages. Some crews were doing the work without de-energizing power lines, which is more dangerous than working on disconnected lines. But the company has certain deadlines under its PUC-approved plan that it must meet to harden the power grid so it does not cause fires.

“Even minor delays would result in greater wildfire risk and would shift a considerable amount of work into the future,” the company told the PUC in a letter.

“Further, it is not yet known what impacts this pandemic may have on fire fighting and suppression capabilities statewide, and initial cases of first responders contracting COVID-19 are being reported. The potential that fire response could be hampered as a result of the virus provides even more urgency to the need to continue with critical wildfire related grid upgrades".


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