Newsom Has the Power to Remedy Power Outages – Why Hasn’t He Acted?

Amid an unprecedented – and excruciating – recent number of intentional power outages to mitigate the risk of fires during California’s dry, windy conditions, Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed a number of policy measures, ranging from demands for $100 rebates to PG&E customers to threatened fines to appointing an energy czar, none of which will squarely address the unacceptable dilemma of widespread and continuing power outages that have already affected millions of my fellow Californians.  PG&E reports that it may take ten years to reinforce its aging infrastructure to avoid such outages.

However, the governor himself holds the power to mitigate the need for such widespread power outages.  The California Emergency Services Act grants the governor the power to declare a state of emergency to implement an accelerated program for reinforcing the state’s power infrastructure by lifting those statutes and regulations that require California utilities to divert their resources to meet expensive goals for renewable energy and instead of investing the funds to strengthen its infrastructure.  The Act would also empower the governor to enlist the mutual aid of the state’s many subdivisions to assist in a massive effort to trim back trees that endanger transmission lines, particularly in forested areas.

California’s goals of deriving 33 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2020 and 50% by 2030, requires a significant diversion of resources that could otherwise go to protecting the public’s health and safety by reinforcing the aging transmission lines, towers, and substations.

Assemblyman James Gallagher, R- Yuba City observed that in 2017, PG&E spent $2.4 billion in purchasing renewable energy, but only $1.5 billion in updating its infrastructure. And while the state’s renewable energy goals are laudable, there must be a balance between the resources allocated to renewable energy for a distant (and fire-ravaged) tomorrow and those allocated to the public safety today.

This is particularly the case when reputable sources note that California accounts for less than 1% of global emissions.  Thus, a temporary reduction of future renewable energy goals to address the present peril of fire, fury, and outages would likely make no difference to climate change.

The Emergency Services Act allows the governor to mitigate the effects of “natural” or “manmade” causes of emergencies, which result in “conditions of disaster or in extreme peril to life, property, and the resources of the state,” which are “likely beyond the control” of any single county or city – which certainly describe the impending risk of fires capable of destroying people’s lives, whole towns (like Paradise), and Presidential Libraries, and power outages that disrupt life-sustaining medical equipment, food storage,  and even cell service based on voice-over-internet service, cutting their users from the outside world.

Significantly, the Act grants the governor the power to “suspend any regulatory statute” or “the orders, rules, or regulations of any state agency . . . where the Governor determines and declares that strict compliance with any statute, order, rule, or regulation would in any way prevent, hinder, or delay the mitigation of the effects of the emergency.”  Thus, the governor could temporarily lift statutory and regulatory renewable energy requirements to provide utilities with the funds for an accelerated effort to strengthen their aging power infrastructure and to trim back trees that threaten transmission lines.  Local governments could be enlisted and trained to help with the effort.

Gov. Pete Wilson invoked the Emergency Services Act when the 1994 Northridge earthquake buckled the Santa Monica Freeway, cutting off a key artery between west Los Angeles and downtown.

Exercising his emergency powers, he lifted the regulatory red tape, including lengthy bidding requirements, and offered a bonus for every day the repairs were completed before the 140-day contractual deadline. The freeway was repaired in record time — 66 days.  That was leadership at a time in need.

And the scope of the governor’s emergency powers was demonstrated when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger invoked it to deal with prison overcrowding in 2006 – a decision upheld by the California appellate courts.

Climate change is occurring, but that does not mean that the public health and safety must suffer based on pure speculation that particular goals for renewable energy cannot be temporarily lifted without impacting climate change.

If President Nixon, with his anti-communist credentials, could go to China, Gov. Newsom, with his anti-carbon credentials, can surely temporarily moderate renewable energy goals in order to free up funds to address the present danger of deadly fires and dangerous power outages.

Daniel Kolkey serves on the board of the Pacific Research Institute. He is an attorney and former judge.

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.


  1. Campaign donations buy a lot these days.

  2. The primary power from the California Emergency Services Act must be used to rewrite the Obama forestation regulations to clear away the fuel from the next spark, homeless campfire, or lighting strike. Basically, no need to upgrade the infrastructure for it to be burned by the fuel that needs to be removed!

    The second priority would be to divert monies going to renewables to upgrade the grid.

    However, with the power that the California Emergency Services Act grants the Governor, he has chosen instead for more litigation and a reorganization of the utility company to prevent wildfires!

  3. Maintenance on our utilities should never have come to the point of needing a minimum of 10 years to fix. Are oil pipes are failing, our waterways are filthy, our forests burn due to lack of Maintenance, and our dams are falling apart. PG&E is just another piece of that decrepit puzzle. When are we going to stop sending money to Mega investors in our utilities? When will we stop giving power to a governor to sit months and months to ponder his new Czar while worrying about straws and travel containers? A lot needs to be done, and it’s not going to happen through Governor Newsom.

  4. We cannot attribute common sense anymore to the DNC or their minions anymore. They have adopted a full court press of the CPUSA Agenda and their minions will follow them over the cliff. Sadly what is left in California of the common sense Right as usual will suffer the consequences of the poor decisions of the present administration.

    • Because he himself wants it ti governed by him and his cronies.If that happennes guess what you will use water when they,power when they say and if something does happen there will be know one to fix it and it’s his baby.But he ain’t gonna be around that long,trust me he be long gone!

  5. As I keep shouting it fro the highest rooftops: THERE ARE TWO RECALL NEWSOM PETITIONS OUT THERE. SIGN ONE OR BOTH. Let’s get rid of Pretty Boy!

  6. If Newsom truly believes in the Climate Change farce “caused” by CO2, then wouldn’t it make more sense to put resources towards preventing massive forest fires which release more CO2 than hundreds of thousands of modern cars rather than adding a few more windmills and solar panels?

  7. ExCaliExpat says

    That he refuses to suspend the arbitrary renewables “mandate” is PROOF that this numbnut is more concerned about his virtue signaling to his liberal base than addressing the real problem that prevents them from recharging their Prius’ and Teslas, than really solving the problem…
    Newsom and Becerra are thieves and frauds and both,need to be recalled ASAP….

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