SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) has introduced a bill to address power outages caused by metallic film balloons when they come into contact with powerlines.
Each year, electric utilities experience hundreds of power outages caused by the release of metallic balloons when they come into contact with power lines. Over 1 million customers have been affected by a power outage caused by a metallic film balloon since 2015. CAL FIRE documented two fires in 2013 and 2015 caused by metallic film balloons, which burned over 10,000 acres combined, and cost millions of dollars to suppress.
“Metallic balloons can be a perfect storm for powerlines. Their conductive surface cause short circuits when they contact overhead lines,” explained Assemblymember Quirk. “It’s easy for the wind to snatch them away, or consumers might think they are safe to release, like latex balloons. But they’ve caused millions of dollars of wildfire damage, and power outages for millions of Californians. Burning balloon material has even fallen and injured bystanders below,” he continued.
Current law requires retail stores to attach a weight to balloons before a customer can purchase it. Despite education efforts by organizations like the Balloon Council, there are incidents in which retailers sell balloons with no weights. “There is opportunity to create a more robust system to prevent the release of metallic balloons,” suggested Assemblymember Quirk.
AB 2450 would require manufacturers of metallic balloons print a permanent warning directly on the balloon which would warn consumers of the dangers of allowing a balloon to come into contact with powerlines.
“This is a consumer knowledge problem. If Californians understood that these balloons have caused wildfires or if they thought their hours-long power outage might be caused by a balloon, they would be much more likely to properly care and dispose of this product. Balloon strikes have not shown a meaningful decline over the years,” said Assemblylmember Quirk. “AB 2450 will change that. Every balloon will let consumers know of the serious risks it poses.”