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Congressman Panetta Joins Bay Area Members of Congress in Announcing Bill to Make Electrical Grid Better Able to Withstand Disasters

November 21, 2019
Press Release
Bill Would Help Mitigate Risk In Light Of Public Safety Power Shutoffs

WASHINGTON, DC – Today Congressman Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), and Members of the Bay Area Delegation – Reps. Mike Thompson (CA-05), Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Doris Matsui (CA-06), Ami Bera (CA-07), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Eric Swalwell (CA-15), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), and Ro Khanna (CA-17) announced plans to introduce a bill to improve the infrastructure of our nation’s electrical grid so it is better able to withstand extreme weather and natural disasters. This bill would help deliver energy for residents that is consistent and reliable. Plans for this bill were announced in light of recent Public Safety Power Shutoffs conducted by Pacific Gas and Electric that have left millions of Californians without power. 

“Over the past six weeks, communities across Northern California have experienced multiple power shutoffs. These repeated blackouts have hurt families by threatening their ability to use life-sustaining medical devices, stopping children from attending school, and making it harder to store perishable food,” said Congressman Panetta. “Investing in our infrastructure and strengthening our electric grid is long overdue. Our legislation is an important and necessary step in the right direction.”

“Our district has been hit with power shutoff after power shutoff, leaving thousands of my constituents in the dark, hurting local businesses and leaving medically-vulnerable residents at great risk. This is unacceptable and cannot be our new normal,” said Congressman Thompson. “That’s why today I am announcing plans to introduce a bill to help make our electrical grid stronger so it can better withstand risks, reduce fire danger and prevent future power shutoffs. We must ensure that we have a safer future for our district and others where we continue to be hit with extreme fire weather conditions.”

“One of the burdens that has emerged as a result of the devastating fires in California is the hundreds of thousands of people who have been left in the dark due to shutdowns of power by our energy utility, Pacific Gas & Electric. Instead of withstanding natural disasters, the grid has actively created disasters by sparking wildfires,” said Congresswoman Eshoo. “Our energy grid must be modernized to ensure public safety and provide reliable energy, especially during emergencies. I’m proud to partner with Rep. Thompson and my Bay Area colleagues on legislation to ensure our communities are supported by dependable electrical grids during future disasters.”

“In Northern California, we know that families, business owners, and institutions cannot keep operating from power shutoff to shutoff. That’s why utilities must address electric grid resiliency and work to mitigate risks,” said Congresswoman Lofgren. “By improving reliability with updated technologies and strategies, my colleagues and I want to ensure a safe, sustainable future for Californians and all Americans.”

“PG&E’s repeated, far-ranging power shutoffs are crippling our communities, putting our constituents at risk, and cannot be accepted as the new normal,” said Congressman Huffman. “We know climate change is making us more vulnerable than ever to wildfires, but repeated power shutoffs are not a sustainable solution. This plan is one of many important steps we must take to strengthen energy infrastructure and build more resilient communities.”

“Californians, and all Americans, who pay their energy bills each month deserve better than prolonged blackouts and fear that their communities will be incinerated,” said Congressman Swalwell. “We need a safe and reliable grid that keeps our households and our economy humming even when the weather is windy and dry. Our legislation will help ensure that American ratepayers get what they’re paying for.”

“This situation has been devastating for people across California. Many are without power and homes have been destroyed by these fires. There’s no excuse for not getting power to people in the state that is home to Apple, Google, and Tesla,” said Congressman Khanna. “I’m proud to support this effort from Rep. Mike Thompson to improve our electrical infrastructure so it is able to withstand extreme weather and natural disasters.”

The planned bill would define resiliency with regard to extreme weather events in Federal electric reliability standards, allowing utilities to better mitigate risk and shore up grid infrastructure. It would also establish a program through the Department of Energy that would offer technologies and procedures to improve resiliency. Finally, the bill would require the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to work with the North American Electric Reliability Corporation and hold a technical conference to incorporate these solutions into work to improve reliability of the grid. Final bill text and introduction to occur in the coming weeks.