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Myriad businesses apply for blackout outage exemptions

Monday, June 4, 2001, 2001 Associated Press


(06-04) 00:03 PDT SAN FRANCISCO (AP) --

In a last-ditch effort to keep their lights on during summer blackouts, some 6,500 California businesses -- ranging from a tattoo parlor to a pet cemetery -- have pleaded their cases on a state Web site in hopes they'll be spared when power supplies are stretched thin.

The catch: They had to predict the number of deaths possible if their business lost electricity during a power outage.

But that hasn't stopped folks from trying. The Web site run by the state Public Utilities Commission was so inundated with activity, the application deadline was extended from Friday to Monday.

"They don't take us seriously, but we deal with blood, too," said Frank Saldarelli, owner of Sick Dogs Tattoo in Westminster. "Let's say we're in the middle of a genital piercing, and the lights go out. That's a touchy situation."

Thousands of public and private facilities already are exempt from blackouts because of their importance to health and safety. Airports, hospitals, police stations and transit agencies did not have to apply for "essential" status.

But PUC officials say they wanted to give others an opportunity to apply for the exemptions, too. A private consultant will review the applications and rank them in order of importance based on PUC guidelines. Decisions are expected to be announced in August.

According to the agency, at least 40 percent of the state's electrical load must by eligible for blackouts. Fifty percent is already exempt, leaving 10 percent up for grabs.

Mike Klinger of Sunset View Cemetery in El Cerrito said he applied for the exemption because he fears an outage could hurt his business. He said the crematorium could release pollutants and smoke plumes if the electricity goes out during a cremation. "You don't know how people are going to react when they see smoke coming from a cremation," he said.

The fact that businesses have to predict that deaths could occur in a blackout has some submitting creative applications. "If the lights went out during a show, there would be a huge panic, and people would freak out," said Alex Andreas, owner of the Boom Boom Room blues club in San Francisco.

For others, the idea of even mentioning death is bad for business. "This is just symptomatic of how stupid this process is," said Betsy Hite, a spokeswoman for the California Association of Hospital Facilities, which has pushed for its nursing facilities that care for the elderly to be exempt. "What kind of liability would our facilities open themselves up to if they said, 'Yeah, we think it will kill half of our patients."'

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2001 Associated Press

-- Swissrose (, June 04, 2001

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