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NEW LETTER: Harder Pushes CA to Expand Power Outage Help for Medically Vulnerable Individuals

WASHINGTON — Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) sent a letter to California Public Utilities Commission President Marybel Batjer urging immediate changes to power shutoff policies leaving thousands of vulnerable Californians in the dark.

Reporting from the Sacramento Bee this fall shows California’s program to offer cheaper rates and additional power notices to medically vulnerable populations is falling wildly short of public need. The program does not include those vulnerable to extreme temperatures, who need an elevator or other device to leave and enter their home, who use refrigerated medicines, or who communicate through assistance technology. A recent study estimates that there are more than 176,000 people in California who depend on electricity for their medical treatment. At the same time, only one in four at-risk individuals nationally has access to an alternative source of power in the event of an outage.

“Power outages put lives in danger – it’s just that simple,” said Rep. Harder. “The State of California as well as power companies like PG&E owe it to our community to make sure that every resident, especially the medically vulnerable, can get through a power outage. Whether you need an elevator to get up to your apartment or you depend on medication that requires refrigeration–that doesn’t change when PG&E decides to cut the power. It’s time for the state to step up and make sure the folks in our community have what they need to get through these brutal blackouts.”

Read the letter below and online here.

Dear President Batjer,

Thank you for your work to oversee California’s public utilities, implementing wildfire prevention measures. I write today to urge an immediate change to shutoff policies that are leaving our vulnerable populations in the dark, especially the elderly and disabled, who rely on power sources for vital medical needs.

People depend on power for life-or-death medical energy needs, meaning outages have deadly consequences. When only a quarter of elderly Americans who use electric-dependent medical equipment have access to an alternative source of power, we must do better ensure these populations are given advance notice of these outages and provide them with alternative sources of power. The timing and duration of power shutoffs, also known as Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) events, are a vital part of keeping our families safe especially for those who depend power for essential medical equipment, such as people who need an elevator to enter or exit their homes and those refrigerating prescriptions.

As you consider additional regulations requiring public utility companies to expand who qualifies for advanced notifications and assistance during power outages, I urge you to expand these notifications to all medically vulnerable populations, including people who live in multi-family homes and use elevators to leave their homes as well populations with refrigerated medications. You must equip every customer, especially the medically vulnerable, with the appropriate backup power supply to meet their medical needs during a PSPS event.

Thank you, President Batjer, for your past work on this issue and I look forward to your response on this critical matter.


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