Lake County Board of Supervisors, PG&E’s Roth Provide Information, Frankly Discuss Serious Concerns
LAKE COUNTY, CA. (November 19, 2019) – During the Tuesday, 11/19 meeting of the Lake County Board of Supervisors, an Extra Item was authorized, and PG&E Senior Public Safety Specialist Stewart Roth provided an update regarding the Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) Event expected to occur, beginning in the morning hours of Wednesday, 11/20.
At this time, the 11/20 PSPS event is expected to affect 16,000 Lake County customers, representing an increase of 3,000 customers from the update provided yesterday evening. Mr. Roth was unable to immediately identify what new area(s) of Lake County would be in scope for the 11/20 Event, and noted that analysis remains ongoing, and there may be further changes to the scope.
De-energization is anticipated to occur around 7am tomorrow morning. The weather event is presently expected to last around 24 hours. Once the All Clear notice is issued for Lake County, currently projected at 8am Thursday, 11/21, inspection of lines will begin. Restoration of power will occur as possible, and PG&E’s goal is to restore power to all customers affected by the 11/20 PSPS event within 24 hours of the All Clear notice.
It is not possible for PG&E to predict what damage will occur as a result of the weather event, and significant infrastructure damage can delay restoration of power.
PG&E anticipates updating their event map soon, here is a link:
The map is intended to provide only a general sense of the affected area. PG&E’s address lookup tool is the best way to identify whether a specific property may lose power:
A de-energization decision is expected to be made this afternoon, and Mr. Roth is advocating for a 1pm decision time, to enable affected individuals to prepare to the greatest available extent. Mr. Roth expressed that he appreciates even this lead time is fairly minimal, in light of the many ways individuals can be affected by the loss of power.
Timely communication of situational updates was a significant topic of discussion. People have different needs, and must have an opportunity to plan, yet information sharing by PG&E has been far less than immediate, with public-facing information resources often lagging PG&E’s internal situational updates by a significant period.
District 5 Supervisor Rob Brown noted he received information from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office over the weekend, “10 hours after it had been posted on Facebook by some of the scanner pages.” Said Brown, “The whole thing is ridiculous.”
Undersheriff Macedo confirmed the Sheriff’s Office, which administers the Lake County Office of Emergency Services, had not significantly delayed sharing information from PG&E with other County officials, and encouraged PG&E to address their information sharing norms, to ensure residents and public officials, alike, have access to the information they need to plan.
District 2 Supervisor, Bruno Sabatier, pressed Mr. Roth to reveal when PG&E had begun internal preparations for the 11/20 PSPS event, and it was apparent some discussion had occurred midweek last week. Mr. Roth reported he was made aware of the possibility of an 11/20 PSPS Event on Wednesday, 11/13.
Sabatier remarked many community members had likely purchased food late last week and over the weekend, for example, and some were already beginning preparations for upcoming Thanksgiving celebrations. Some of those presumably purchased frozen foods and other perishable goods that may be lost as a result of PG&E’s 11/20 PSPS Event.
Supervisor Sabatier and Undersheriff Chris Macedo shared the perspective the public would benefit from having more immediate access to information. If PG&E is considering shutting off power, residents should be aware of the possibility right away. Macedo also reinforced the import of PG&E assuming the communication burden that would accompany this approach, making staff available to answer questions from those who may be affected, rather than overwhelming law enforcement call centers in the affected areas.
District 1 Supervisor, Moke Simon, noted for some people, the reliable availability of power is a matter of “Life and death.” Simon also described the long-term economic effects as crippling. “This is much more than an inconvenience,” stated Simon.
Reference was made that Lake County’s Superintendent of Schools, Brock Falkenberg, recently wrote letter to the California Public Utilities Commission, noting $80,000 in expenses from spoiled food alone, not to mention numerous lost days of education, resulting in a meaningful loss of learning opportunity for area children. Lake County’s governmental leaders have likewise recently mourned the fact our schools being closed means greater food and nutrition insecurity for many; there are numerous consequences to our local schools and the families they serve that are just unsustainable.
Concern was also expressed by our Board regarding temperatures continuing to fall, exposing particularly the eldest and youngest Lake County residents to increased risk. Supervisor Simon shared, during the last event, he heard from at least two people who fell on their properties, due to lack of adequate lighting. At the October 31 joint meeting of the Councils of the Cities of Clearlake and Lakeport and the Board of Supervisors, Lake County’s Public Health Officer, Gary Pace, noted several concerns that could have been exacerbated even further, were the previous event even hours longer.
District 3 Supervisor, Eddie Crandell, emphasized Lake County businesses are hurting as a result of regular PG&E PSPS events, and many cannot afford to purchase a generator. Food has been lost, employee wages have been lost, and these resources cannot be recouped from insurance carriers, despite circumstances well beyond the individual control of residents and business owners.
Crandell further noted demanding the California Insurance Commissioner apply pressure for insurance providers to cover PG&E PSPS-associate losses may not be a positive solution, as insurance rates would almost certainly increase, and Lake County residents already face challenges, when seeking affordable and appropriate coverage.
Board Chair, Tina Scott, offered practical recommendations to better convey updates to the areas affected by PSPS Events, and Mr. Roth affirmed he would communicate all of the Supervisors’ recommendations, “Up the chain,” noting he had a direct line of communication with Vice President Aaron Johnson.
This morning’s discussion abundantly revealed there is a great deal more work to be done to help California residents, and particularly those in rural communities, respond to PSPS Events. Lake County’s leaders are aware, and working to support common sense solutions. County Administrative Officer, Carol J. Huchingson, affirmed the County, City of Clearlake and City of Lakeport have each appointed members to a committee that will collectively work to identify solutions and advocate, with one voice, for Lake County’s needs. Huchingson noted work was already underway to prepare for and schedule the initial committee meeting.
Recognizing the emotion in the room, and the true struggles Lake County residents have been facing as a direct consequence of PG&E’s suboptimal management of electrical infrastructure, ultimately resulting in the recent disastrous string of PSPS Events, Supervisor Simon made a point to reassure Stewart Roth of PG&E his frustrations were not with Mr. Roth, personally, “[Nor] or our friends and family who are driving trucks, working to restore power. You guys are working hard to get us back up. These messages are for the corporate officers.”
Mr. Roth appreciated Simon making this statement, noting PG&E’s field workers, who have no role in policy making, have faced numerous challenges throughout California, from restaurants refusing them service to employees being shot at. He assured the County Supervisors he shares their concerns, noting that he previously served as a firefighter for 38 years, and had a long history of emergency management as a public servant, prior to joining PG&E. He noted his position required him to implement company policy, rather than create it, but repeatedly affirmed his commitment to advocate on Lake County’s behalf with PG&E’s highest leadership.