Residents Express Frustration at CPUC Meeting Over Edison's Windstorm Response

Community members packed the Temple City High School auditorium Thursday.

San Gabriel Valley residents railed against the lack of communication and attentiveness to the needs of the elderly and disabled that Southern California Edison displayed in its response to the .

Hurricane-force winds cause more than 205,000 SCE customers throughout the San Gabriel Valley to lose power for several days; some were left in the dark for more than a week.

Around 200 people packed the Performing Arts Hall at Temple City High School on Thursday to voice their complaints before California Public Utilities Commission officials during an, at times, noisy and contentious public hearing.

California Public Utilities commissioners Catherine Sandoval, Michael R. Peevey, Mike Florio and Timothy Alan Simon attended the meeting.

 echoed the complaints of several Valley residents present at the meeting, saying a lack of reliable information from Edison is what upset people most.

"Just tell us what to expect," Portantino said, adding that Edison also needed to find more effective ways to communicate with the public, rather than relying on e-mail and Twitter.

"When you're dealing with a loss of electricity, this isn't a good way to communicate," he said.

Portantino pointed out that small communities suffered a great deal from the storm and the resulting loss of power. Sierra Madre, he said, has a $4 million city budget and suffered $7 million in damage.

, of the 49th District, said that businesses in San Marino lost over $300,000 in sales, thanks to the extended power outage. Schools in his district that closed lost significant funding from the state, he said, because schools are funded according to the number of students in school each day.

"When schools had to shut, they lost that revenue," Eng said.

SCE President Ronald Litzinger and Executive Vice President Lynda Ziegler defended their company, describing the steps the utility took to help the community in the face of the black out. They also answered questions from the commissioners.

William MacLean, of Temple City, was the first member of the public to speak. He told of having to stay in the hospital during the outage because he uses a wheelchair and relies on a generator to power his medical equipment. Because he could not find caregivers able to refill the generator with gas, the hospital was his only option.

"We had no communication about when the power would be on," MacLean told the commissioners.

Commissioner Simon then asked MacLean if he was on Edison's list of people with disabilities and if he'd received contact from Edison. MacLean said that he was on the list, but heard nothing from the utility.

Meeting attendees also expressed dissatisfaction with Edison in regards to damage claims they filed with the utility.

Mary Chu of  said she expected a response to her damage claim within seven days, as per the company's Web site, but said more than 30 days have passed and she has yet to hear from SCE.

"I'm just pretty appalled by the lack of response," she told the commissioners.

The audience grew restless.

One unnamed woman called out that she did not want to hear any more from the politicians or Edison, while an unnamed man called out that he wanted answers from SCE officials.

Altadena resident Robert Staehle asked why there wasn't a plan in place to deal with such a potential disasters, echoing others' requests that the power company develop mutual aid agreements with other power companies, similar to those in place between local police and fire agencies.

Stephen Jones of La Canada also made a plea for a mutual aid agreement.

"I don't know if there is such a system for public utilities," he said. "Why weren't there repairmen from all over the western states here? I'd hate to spend six days without heat, light, the ability to cook on my stove, just so Edison shareholders can have a couple extra cents."

Carl Marziale, of South Pasadena, got cheers from the audience when he suggested that power lines should be placed underground.

"If we had more power lines underground, we would not have had as many outages," he said.

Gloria Dunn, an Arcadia resident who has diabetes, said she could not get any accurate information from Edison about when her power would be restored, and so she decided to take her supply of insulin to a hotel with an in-room refrigerator to keep her medication cold.

In addition, the claim form was confusing. While there is space on the form for medical devices, Dunn said, she did not know how to make a claim for her insulin.

"There is no place on this form for medications," she said. "There are many medications that require refrigeration."

Helen Liddell of Altadena came to the meeting but did not speak publicly.

She said that she'd come to complain that her electric bill did not reflect the six days she went without power. In addition, she said there were still repairs to be made on the pole outside her home on Loma Alta Drive.

"My pole is still split," she said. "Those poles are still sparking fire now and then."

Nonetheless, she felt that the meeting was a good idea, as did South Pasadena Police Chief Joe Payne.

"I'm trying to collect some information," he said, adding that he thought the hearing would be effective.


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