The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has embarked upon a “penalty consideration case” against Southern California Edison (SCE), evaluating whether or not the entity should face fines, in light of the numerous power outages that occurred in Long Beach last summer, the commission announced today.
Specifically, the commission will investigate whether SCE violated any rules or regulations in the events leading to the power outages, which left over 30,000 people without power at their peak, after an underground blast interrupted a power network and blew off multiple manhole covers throughout downtown.
According to CPUC, an investigation by staff, as well as independent investigations and those conducted internally by SCE found maintenance, inspection and management failures, as well as lack of oversight leading to the momentarily devastating outages.
Edison could reportedly face up to $50,000 in fines if they are found guilty of the violations. Specifically, the investigation will determine if the organization violated rules or regulations, maintained accurate and complete records and provided sufficient emergency response and communications during the outages.
In a January meeting before the Long Beach City Council, SCE Senior Vice President of Transmission and Distribution Pete Dietrich acknowledged the failures. He took personal responsibility for the outages of July 15 and July 30 that left thousands without power for days, before adding that improper operation of the network was also a contributing cause, aside from infrastructure failure.
“What we identified as the cause of the Long Beach power outages was improper operations and insufficient management oversight of the Long Beach network system,” Dietrich said. “While the system had been very reliable since the mid-1950s, in hindsight we saw a few mis-operations and mis-performances that caused the sequence of events that led to the outages that occurred July 15 and July 30.”
In the meeting, Dietrch said SCE was making progress completing 35 recommendations outlined in a November CPUC report, including tethering down manhole covers to prevent them flying into the air again, re-training staff on the intricacies of the network and improving the mapping of the network and equipment.