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 contractor were not performing the work using state required lead-based paint safe work practices, thus violating the law. He also noticed that this household had small children living there who would be susceptible to lead paint poisoning due to 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 expect. Ms. Kite's presentation was well received and she has since performed trainings for utility ESAP contractors to enable them to obtain state certification to perform lead-based paint safe work practices.
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."
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