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July 19, 2012

CES Action Helps Obtain Public Utilities Commission
Directive to Calif Private Utilities & Their Contractors
'Use Lead-Based Paint Safe Work Practices!'

Calif Public Utilities Comm's Low Income Oversight Board

In January of this year, Coalition for Economic Survival (CES) Executive Director Larry Gross was appointed to the California Public Utilities Commission's (PUC) Low Income Oversight Board (LIOB). The LIOB advises the Commission on low-income electric, gas and water customer issues and to serve as a liaison for the Commission to low-income ratepayers and representatives.

One of the first actions Mr. Gross took in his capacity as a LIOB member was to request a drive along, last February, with Southern California Gas Company representatives to observe their contractors installing free energy saving devices to low income ratepayers. The Energy Savings Assistance Program (ESAP) is a statewide program in which all California investor-owned utilities (IOUs) provide no-cost energy efficient home improvements such as attic insulation, wall heaters, water heaters, weather-stripping and other home repairs to qualified low income households.

While observing a Gas Company contractor installing a wall heater in a South Los Angeles home, Mr. Gross noticed that paint, presumed to be lead-based, was being disturbed while the contractors were not performing the work using state and federally required lead-based paint safe work practices, thus violating the laws and putting workers in harms way. He also noticed that this household had small children living there who would be susceptible to lead poisoning the way the work was being performed.

Mr. Gross was granted his request to place the issue of ensuring that utility ESAP contractors use lead-based paint safe work practices on the next LIOB agenda. Support for this was received from his LIOB colleagues, including PUC Commissioner Timothy Simon, the Commissioner assigned to the LIOB. Board Member Gross was then able to secure a presentation to the LIOB by Linda Kite, Healthy Homes Collaborative Executive Director, a lead paint poison prevention expert. Ms. Kite's presentation was well received and she has since performed trainings for utility ESAP contractors to enable them to obtain Environmental Protection Agency- Repair, and Painting Program (EPA-RRP) certification to perform work safely around lead while improving energy efficiency in homes built before 1978.

More importantly was the fact that the California Public Utilities Commission, on May 10, 2012, in its "Decision Providing Guidance on 2013-2012 Energy Efficiency Portfolios and 2012 Marketing, Education and Outreach" adopted the following:

"The utilities are directed to work with Commission Staff on the workforce education and training taskforce to develop a data request template to be submitted by Staff as needed for periodic updates on the status of the utility's Sector Strategy activities. In their applications, the IOUs shall indicate how they currently address safety concerns regarding energy efficiency installations (e.g., lead paint and asbestos removal and natural gas combustion safety) through training, education, certification, participating contractor requirements, or other appropriate measures, and how they plan to address these issues in 2013-2014."

PUC Commissioner Catherine J.K. Sandoval indicated to Mr. Gross that this PUC directive to monitor and ensure that all California investor-owned utilities (which doesn't include municipal-owned utilities such as the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power) make sure their contractors employ lead-based paint safe work practices was a direct result of Mr. Gross raising this issue with the LIOB. Commissioner Sandoval also stated that this issue was especially meaningful to her having been exposed to lead paint poisoning dangers growing up in an old apartment building in East Los Angeles.

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Cost Saving Programs for California's Low-Income Utility Rate Payers

To Find Out More, Click on the Programs Listed Below:

California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE), provides eligible households a 20 percent discount on their electric and natural gas bills.

Energy Savings Assistance Program (ESAP), provides no-cost weatherization services to low-income households such as attic insulation, energy efficient refrigerators, energy efficient furnaces, weatherstripping, caulking, low-flow showerheads, waterheater blankets, and door and building envelope repairs which reduce air infiltration.

Family Electric Rate Assistance Program (FERA) - Families whose household income slightly exceeds the low-income energy program allowances will qualify to receive FERA discounts, which bills some of their electricity usage at a lower rate.

Federal Low Income Program (LIHEAP), a Federal low-income home energy assistance, energy crisis intervention, and low-income weatherization program.

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