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Public Utilities Commission Delivers $56 Million Boost To Disadvantaged Communities

Ezra David Romero
Valley Public Radio
Lanare, whose residents are pictured here with their failed water treatment facility, is one of the 11 communities to receive funding from the state to gain access to natural gas and energy-efficient appliances.

The state of California on Thursday greenlighted a suite of energy projects to serve the San Joaquin Valley, for a total investment of over $56 million.

The California Public Utilities Commission has approved almost a dozen pilot projects to improve energy infrastructure in 11 disadvantaged communities across the Valley.

Phoebe Seaton is with of the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, one of the organizations supporting these projects. She says there is an overwhelming need for energy upgrades. "People are reliant on propane or wood for heating and cooking," she says, "and in some circumstances people don’t have any heating or cooking if they don’t have the financial capacity to buy propane."

The communities, including Allensworth, California City and Cantua Creek, fall in five counties from Merced south through Kern.

Utility companies PG&E and Southern California Edison will help administer the projects, which will connect these areas to natural gas lines and provide them with energy-efficient appliances. The entire effort arose out of a state law passed in 2014 to improve energy access and affordability throughout the region.

Seaton says she's excited for the Valley to take advantage of this opportunity. "It’s really fun to see the San Joaquin Valley in the forefront as a trailblazer," she says, "rather than left behind."

Kerry Klein is an award-winning reporter whose coverage of public health, air pollution, drinking water access and wildfires in the San Joaquin Valley has been featured on NPR, KQED, Science Friday and Kaiser Health News. Her work has earned numerous regional Edward R. Murrow and Golden Mike Awards and has been recognized by the Association of Health Care Journalists and Society of Environmental Journalists. Her podcast Escape From Mammoth Pool was named a podcast “listeners couldn’t get enough of in 2021” by the radio aggregator NPR One.