Huffman, Thompson, Eshoo, Lofgren, Matsui, Bera, LaMalfa, Swalwell, DeSaulnier, Khanna, Panetta Introduce Utility Resilience and Reliability Act

Bill to help power grid better withstand extreme weather events

June 11, 2020

San Rafael, CA – Today Rep. Jared Huffman (CA-02) and Members of the Bay Area Delegation – Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-05), Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18), Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Rep. Doris Matsui (CA-06), Rep. Ami Bera (CA-07), Rep. Doug LaMalfa (CA-01), Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA-15), Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Rep. Ro Khanna (CA-17), and Rep. Jimmy Panetta (CA-20) –  announced the introduction of the bipartisan Utility Resilience and Reliability Act. The bill will help build in resiliency into Federal power standards and help provide programs and recommendations on responding to and mitigating the impact of extreme weather events. Plans for this bill were first announced in late November and in response to last year’s Public Safety Power Shutoffs that hit Northern California and left millions without power.   

“Wildfire season is already upon us, and we cannot compound the crises California communities are up against with unsustainable power shutoffs,” said Huffman. “By improving the strength and dependability of the electrical grid with comprehensive reliability standards, transparent reporting, and clear recommendations on grid resilience, this bill will make sure that utilities are doing the work to avoid far-ranging power shut-offs.” 

“Our district was hit hard by the Public Safety Power Shutoffs, with thousands in the dark, businesses shuttered and putting medically-vulnerable people at great risk. We cannot let these power shutoffs be our new normal. That’s why I led the introduction of the Utility Resilience and Reliability Act,” said Thompson. “This bipartisan bill will help make resilience a key part of our nation’s power standards and help reduce the risk of extreme events in the future. We must ensure that our grid is prepared and our constituents are safe.”   

“As fire season approaches and we continue to grapple with an ongoing public health emergency, California’s utilities have an obligation to reduce the risk of wildfires without resorting to shutting off power,” said Eshoo. “I’m proud to join my Bay Area colleagues in introducing legislation to strengthen our electrical grid to make it more resilient to extreme weather and provide reliable power to Californians.” 

“In Northern California, we’ve seen how our communities struggle when there are constant power shutoffs. That’s why my colleagues and I are calling for reliability standards,” said Lofgren. “By employing commonsense strategies to minimize blackouts and maximize resilience, we’re working to prevent disruptions to our lives and livelihoods and ensure a sustainable future for Californians and all Americans.” 

“Northern California faces some of the most diverse weather and natural disaster challenges of anywhere in the world, and the consequent power shutoffs of the last few years have left millions vulnerable,” said Matsui. “In this time of unprecedented uncertainty and crisis, it is essential that we are prepared for the next wave of emergencies. With wildfire season around the corner, we need to be looking at solutions that will ensure that power is delivered in the safest and most reliable way possible. This legislation will allow us to build up the resiliency of our power grid to make sure our communities are better protected from these tragic events and minimize the impact of potential shutoffs.” 

“During this year's fire season, as our state continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and businesses begin to re-open, ensuring access to reliable power is even more critical than before. Climate change is increasing the threat of wildfires and extreme weather threats in California,” said Bera. “I am proud to join Congressman Mike Thompson and my congressional colleagues in introducing the Utility Resilience and Reliability Act to improve the resiliency of our nation's electric grid. We need to invest in strengthening our grid infrastructure so our communities can be more resilient during future disasters.” 

“Public Safety Power Shutoffs are preventable so long as our power grids are strong. Fragile power grids are not only unreliable, but also incredibly dangerous and serve as potential sources of wildfire ignition. The Utility Resilience and Liability Act is a good step towards making sure all Californians can keep the lights on while minimizing needless fire risk,” said LaMalfa. “I will continue to work on solutions to end long power shutoffs and reinforce commonsense safety standards, like active forest management, for our power grids.”  

“Thousands of my constituents were left without the ability to use life-saving medical devices, contact their loved ones, or feel safe in their own homes thanks to the repeated blackouts. We simply cannot accept this as the new normal in California,” Swalwell said. “Modernizing the power grid and verifying its resiliency in the face of natural disasters is essential to ensuring American ratepayers get what they’re paying for.”  

“Last year’s public safety power shutoffs caused uncertainty and fear for Contra Costa residents and added pressure to small businesses across our region,” said DeSaulnier. “As our community works to stop the spread of coronavirus and re-open its doors, people shouldn’t have to wonder if they will be able to turn on the lights. I am proud to join with Congressman Thompson on this effort to provide certainty and support that both businesses and consumers can depend on.” 

“I’m proud to continue to support this effort from Rep. Mike Thompson to improve our electrical infrastructure, especially in California, so it is able to withstand extreme weather and natural disasters,” said Khanna. 

“Communities across California have experienced multiple power shutoffs over the years.  A big part of the problem has been the lack of investment in our infrastructure, including our electric grid,” said Panetta.  "Our legislation is a step in the right direction when it comes to reinforcing our infrastructure and ensuring the lights stay on in our communities." 

The bipartisan Utility Resilience and Reliability Act aims to address the impact of the extreme weather and resulting power shutoffs that have left millions without power and many vulnerable populations at risk. The bill aims to make the electrical grid more resilient to these events by: 

  • Establishing a reliability standard, within the Federal Power Act, that addresses resiliency in regard to extreme weather events; 

  • Establishing a program through the Department of Energy (DOE) to advise and, be a resource for, states and local utilities on ways to improve the resiliency of their electrical grids; and 

  • Requiring DOE publish a report that provides recommendations on how to minimize the need for, effects of, and duration of planned electric power outages that are due to extreme weather conditions. 

You can click here to read the full text of the bill.