Five years ago, Sen. Ted Lieu, then in State Assembly, proposed a legislation that sought to penalize utility companies that had three or more blackouts a year in the same area. It led to a series of meetings between the senator, South Bay officials and Southern California Edison executives, culminating in a promise from the company that it would invest millions of dollars to improve the circuitry.
“So I threw out the legislation, and we knew that they would take a few years for their improvements to take place,” Lieu said.
Five years have come and gone, yet power outages remain rampant across the South Bay. The Palos Verdes Estates suffers an average of two per month, and Manhattan Beach about one a month.
On Sep. 15, the day a massive outage robbed some 115,000 South Bay residents of power for seven hours, Lieu presented an ultimatum to Southern California Edison in the form of a letter to the utility company’s head.
“Edison committed to me, and to the South Bay representatives, to fix the problem,” Lieu wrote. “I trusted Edison’s word and did not introduce legislation holding utilities liable for repeated power outages in the same area.”
“It doesn’t appear that there have been improvements—some places have gotten worse,” he told Easy Reader News. “I think it’s important to note that the excuses Edison gave five years ago don’t hold up anymore … It’s no longer an act of nature or other people’s fault. It’s a problem with design or infrastructure of the system.”
In his letter to Edison chairman, president and CEO Theodore F. Craver, Jr., Lieu asks for a list of infrastructure improvements the utility company has accomplished in the last five years, with specific locations and the cost of those fixes. He also asks Craver to provide a plan as to how the company “intends to fix immediate the massive, recurring and unacceptable power outages in the South Bay.”
As of Tuesday morning, Lieu said he is still awaiting a response.
“My hope is that Edison will take a look at the circuits in the South Bay, acknowledge there is a huge problem and invest money and resources to fix that problem,” he said. “So I’m waiting for their written response to my letter. I’m hoping it’ll be a positive response.”
If Edison doesn’t comply, he said it is likely he will reintroduce the bill from five years ago come next February, when the legislative calendar returns for the new year.
Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi’s Assembly Bill 66, which requires utility companies to publish annually the frequency, size and duration of power outages, was passed earlier this month and awaits the governor’s signature.