Nevada County, Grass Valley and Nevada City officials highlight power shutoff impacts in letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom | TheUnion.com

Nevada County, Grass Valley and Nevada City officials highlight power shutoff impacts in letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom

John Orona
Staff Writer

Officials from Nevada County, Grass Valley and Nevada City have called on Gov. Gavin Newsom and the California Public Utilities Commission to enact stronger accountability controls for PG&E when they initiate public safety power shutoffs.

The officials announced their efforts in a press conference Wednesday night outside Grass Valley City Hall, highlighting the impacts of the October power shutoffs and encouraging residents to patronize local businesses in the “Let’s Go Out Tonight” initiative.

The “Let’s Go Out Tonight” event was planned for only one night before the shutoffs, but was extended throughout the rest of the year in reaction to the shutoffs’ effects on local business.

In a jointly signed letter local government officials called for the commission to ensure cell and landline communications are available during power shutoffs, provide subsidized health and safety supplies like generators and oxygen devices, require future shutoffs are more precisely targeted and communicate more consistently with the utility company’s customers.

According to the letter, responding to last month’s power shutoffs cost the county government more than $350,000. The letter used survey data to estimate food service business losses at nearly $400,000 each day and small retail business losses as high as $5,000 per day.

Officials hope that by working across agencies the utilities commission will receive the letter with more weight, though they said they do not anticipate more than a form letter from the state agency.

Officials react

The Board of Supervisors is planning to invite a local utilities commission official to Nevada County to assess the damage the shutoffs have caused and discuss next steps.

“Who’s ever been through this before,” Supervisor Dan Miller said. “There is no path. We’re trying to find our own path and if it’s the wrong one we’ll correct it, but Nevada County residents expect us to do something.”

Residents and business owners have been forced to take creative steps to protect themselves from future shutoffs. Citizens have been creating Facebook groups, GoFundMe accounts, looking to power utility alternatives and buying generators to prepare themselves for regular shutoffs over the next decade.

According to Supervisor Heidi Hall, focusing on attainable goals with broad support will be key to creating piecemeal workarounds before longer term solutions can be worked on. Hall said she supports an effort in the state Legislature requiring telecom companies to provide backup generators for their communication equipment during power shutoffs.

“One of the biggest concerns the Office of Emergency Services outlined was that within the first 16 to 24 hours of these events, cellular communications start going down, creating a real public safety impact,” County Administrative Analyst Jeffrey Thorsby said.

Megan Dahle, who won the Tuesday election for the District 1 state Assembly seat, said she would support a tax credit or subsidy to businesses affected by the shutoffs and encourages local officials to pressure the governor and state agencies.

“I think first of all I need to know what they’re thinking in terms of what they need, the impact to their budgets and constituents,” Dahle said. “They should be pushing the governor and in the Legislature I will be with them all the way. ”

To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email jorona@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.


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Aftermath of PG&E shutoffs discussion at 6 p.m. (LIVE VIDEO)

November 8, 2019

A panel of western Nevada County government agency leaders, along with community nonprofit and business representatives, will discuss the aftermath of October’s PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoffs from 6 to 9 p.m. today at the Grass Valley Veterans Memorial Hall, 255 S. Auburn St.



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