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Outreach continues amid ongoing fire season

As wildfires continue to burn with the peak of fire season still ahead, utility companies like Southern California Edison are reaching out to customers to address concerns about the power grid, outages and public safety.

SCE is hosting community meetings in Santa Barbara and Camarillo as part of its ongoing public outreach effort.

Edison says the community meetings will focus on the resiliency of the power grid and public safety.

The utility company’s Wildfire Safety Program and its controversial Public Safety Power Shutoff Protocol will be part of the discussion.

“We have a situational awareness center now where we’re monitoring everything from weather, we have high-definition cameras up on mountain tops to see if fires have started”, said SCE spokesperson David Song in a recent interview, “we have other instruments we’re looking at to deploy to help us monitor the system and its really kind of a defensive mechanism.”

In Sacramento, a coalition of utility companies and business groups is calling on state lawmakers to pass a plan that will lessen the liability of companies held responsible for wildfires.

The coalition is supporting a plan by Governor Jerry Brown to change the terms of “inverse condemnation”, a legal doctrine that holds utility companies responsible for costs if their equipment is determined to have caused a wildfire, regardless of whether or not they stuck to safety standards.

PG&E and Southern California Edison have been lobbying hard during the current legislative session to lessen their financial liability in wildfires.

The coalition is calling on the legislature to sign off on the Governor’s plan arguing the state’s current climate no longer fits with current liability laws.

“The utilities, whether they’re public or private, in order to protect their ratepayers, should only be responsible for damages they’re at fault for causing, they should not be strictly liable”, said Rob Fong with the Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce, “otherwise they’re sort of insuring the entire state on the backs of ratepayers for all the wildfires we’re having.”

The SCE community meeting in Santa Barbara Wednesday night begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Earl Warren Showgrounds, Earl’s Place Meeting Room, 3400 Calle Real, Santa Barbara.

The meeting Thursday night will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Ventura County Office of Education Conference and Educational Services Center at 5100 Adolfo Road, Camarillo.

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