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State Senator Wants to Ban Party Balloons to Prevent Power Shortages

A California state senator wants to ban those shiny mylar party balloons. He says they’re increasingly causing power shortages. From Sacramento, Jenny O'Mara reports.

Democratic State Senator Jack Scott told a legislative committee he knows how it sounds.

Scott : I know I probably come off as a party-pooper but the truth is this is a serious matter.

Ben Dreese with PG&E explains the problem -- the balloons cause outages that end up costing millions.

Dreese : These floating balloons contact those lines, provide an electric arc which either interrupts service, melts down wires, or provides a dip in the service.

Dreese says it’s an increasing trend. So the bill would ban the sale of the balloons filled with helium beginning in 2010. It’s supported by several power districts. But the Balloon Council opposes it.

Lobbyist Barry Broad says outages are caused by other things -- trees, squirrels -- much more so than the birthday party favorite. He dismisses the bill as so much hot air.

Broad : And I don't want anyone to get thin-skinned about this or blow up over this issue, but the fact of the matter is there is less here than meets the eye.

The bill was approved in the Senate Public Safety Committee -- it floats next to a fiscal committee.

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