News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Oregon adopts public safety power shutoff rules

The Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) recently approved permanent rules for investor-owned electric utilities, including Portland General Electric and PacifiCorp, regarding public safety power shutoffs (PSPSs).

Temporary rules were implemented for the 2021 wildfire season while the PUC, utilities, public safety partners, and communities worked to finalize permanent rules.

A PSPS is a safety measure designed to help protect people and communities in high fire-risk areas by proactively shutting off electricity during extreme and dangerous weather conditions. De-energizing power lines through a PSPS is a wildfire risk mitigation strategy of last resort because of the significant impacts the loss of power can have on communities and the extensive planning and communication that are needed to effectively implement them. 

These new rules lay out specific communication requirements for the utilities to inform public safety partners, state agencies, local jurisdictions, and the public of the need to implement a PSPS to mitigate wildfire risk. It also requires updates at least every 24 hours until service is restored.

“Implementing a PSPS is a complex decision that impacts communities including use of home medical devices, access to 911 services, and the ability to pump water,” PUC Commissioner Letha Tawney said. “However, it’s a tool in the utility’s tool kit to help reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, if they determine necessary.”

To view the order detailing the PSPS rules go to https://apps.puc.state.or.us/orders/2022ords/22-159.pdf.

The PUC is reminding Oregonians to get ready for the 2022 wildfire season and potential power outages. While the utilities have identified high risk zones, under extreme conditions PSPS could be utilized more widely.

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