AB 418 would provide local governments needed resources to ensure that critical services remain available during blackouts.
By Suzette Martinez Valladares, Special to CalMatters
Assemblymember Suzette Martinez Valladares, a Republican from Santa Clarita, represents Assembly District 38.
California’s prolonged wildfire season and concerning drought conditions threaten to subject hundreds of thousands of residents to a new round of power blackouts if our state government doesn’t take meaningful action.
Since the devastating 2017 and 2018 wildfire seasons, California utilities have frequently relied on public safety power shutoffs (PSPS) as a tool to reduce the risk of sparking wildfires. Unfortunately, these power blackouts impose tremendous costs to our local governments and residents.
During blackouts, local governments face many hurdles to providing essential emergency response and community services. Fire departments, police departments, food banks, cooling centers and many more require energy to provide necessary public services. Without this energy, emergencies will likely be met with slower response times, and vulnerable residents needing these services might be left in the dark.
Additionally, many residents experience particular difficulties during power blackouts. Without access to electricity at home or at community centers, individuals who rely on medical devices that need power or on medication that must be kept cool are left without any options. Workers and students who rely on computers for work or school are unable to log on. Families that are living paycheck to paycheck will lose hundreds of dollars in spoiled food. We must do better.
After hearing from thousands of my constituents and from local governments across the state, I introduced Assembly Bill 418, a bill that would create a pathway for the Legislature to provide local governments and communities needed resources to ensure that critical services remain available to the public during power blackouts.
Recently, AB 418 unanimously passed out of both houses of the Legislature without any opposition. Now the bill is headed to the governor’s office for his consideration. By signing AB 418, Gov. Gavin Newsom would help strengthen California’s commitment to some of its most vulnerable communities. It is imperative that Newsom listen to the concerns of Californians impacted by power blackouts and sign AB 418 so that our local governments and communities can more adequately prepare for power blackouts.
This is a priority for Californians, a priority for me and my colleagues in the Legislature, and it must be a priority for the governor as well.