“Today, our employees are observing the Thanksgiving holiday.”
That’s the message you heard on Thanksgiving if you were one of the tens of thousands of Southern California Edison customers—including the entire city of Malibu—who called to complain that their Thanksgiving was canceled by an Edison PSPS (public safety power shut-off). This is what happens when a monopoly is allowed to dominate the lives of millions. It is no longer acceptable. No one living in the second-largest metropolitan area in the most advanced country the world has ever known should be subject to such third world conditions. Edison gave its customers no choice, no say in the matter, and no warning but in a handful of areas. Its customers need to respond with an ultimatum of their own: “Underground your lines or be dismantled.”
Edison is a publicly-held monopoly. That already is a problem. Because they serve shareholders, not ratepayers, high rates and poor service are their deliberate business model—a model that state officials, especially at the PUC, have refused to challenge. For too long, we have heard that Edison simply cannot afford to underground their lines. After the debacle of Thanksgiving 2021 (and the Woolsey Fire in 2018), I would argue we can no longer afford anything else. Either Edison agrees to underground the lines at no increased cost to ratepayers, or Malibu and other municipalities need to begin a serious discussion as to how to take control of Edison’s infrastructure and manage it themselves, for the benefit of their residents.
At a minimum, Edison owes its residential and commercial customers compensation for spoiled meals, lost wages and business, ruined memories, and more. “Hotel discounts” and solar cell phone chargers won’t cut it. Public officials throughout Southern California need to demand accountability for the losses that Edison’s self-serving PSPS policy needlessly forced its customers to incur. Only when Edison begins to suffer as much as its customers will we see change.
What happened on Thanksgiving 2021 should never be allowed to happen again.