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Report Cites Improper Management at Southern California Edison for July Long Beach Power Failures

LONG BEACH (CNS) – Equipment failures caused by Southern California Edison’s improper management of the underground power network led to a July 15 power outage that left thousands of customers without electricity for as long as four days, according to a pair of reports released by the utility. 

The reports, one performed by Edison and another by the Davies Consulting firm, also found that damage caused by the July 15 equipment failure triggered a second outage on July 30 that affected as many as 30,000 customers. 

“We are deeply disappointed that the findings point to shortcomings in SCE’s operation of the network,” said Pete Dietrich, SCE senior vice president for Transmission and Distribution. “However, we are encouraged that the investigations have identified issues that are correctable, that we will learn from and that can help us improve the way we manage the network to provide the kind of service to our customers that they should expect from us.” 

The July 15 outage affected about 4,800 customers in the downtown Long Beach area and forced the closure of several streets.

The outage began with what appeared to be a vault explosion that sent manhole covers flying into the air and prompted police to warn people to stay out of the area. 

Edison came under criticism from residents and city officials when it took as long as four days to get power fully restored. Some residents complained that food in their refrigerators went bad due to the lack of electricity. According to the reports released today, the July 15 outage was caused by the failure of an “underground cable splice.”

Edison officials said that while the network is designed to keep operating if a single component fails, the failure of the cable splice caused a domino-effect of other equipment failures due to “non-functioning network protection devices, resulting in the entire downtown network being taken offline for inspection and repairs.” 

The second outage on July 30 was the result of equipment damage that occurred during the first blast, according to the reports. In that outage, as many as 30,000 customers lost power following a vault fire near 10th Street and Pine Avenue. Although many customers had service quickly restored, some had no electricity for two or three days. 

The repeated outages and delays in restoring service angered Mayor Robert Garcia, who called for a California Public Utilities Commission investigation.

Garcia said the downtown outage caused millions of dollars in economic losses in the downtown area. According to Edison, both investigative reports were forwarded to the CPUC and the city. Edison’s internal report outlined steps being taken by the company to prevent a recurrence.

It also noted that Edison has already made thorough inspections of every underground vault in downtown Long Beach, and inspections are continuing on other parts of the city’s power grid. 

Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, said he appreciated that Edison was working to correct the situation and act on recommendations included in the reports. 

“Moving forward, I am confident that by working together we can ensure the public’s safety and ultimately improve the reliability of our power grid,” O’Donnell said.

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