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CPUC Issues Rulemaking to Guide Electric Utility Wildfire Mitigation Plans

Quick timeframe set to meet requirements of Senate Bill 901

· CPUC,Wildfire,Electric Utilities,Senate Bill 901

"Devastating wildfires have become a regular occurrence in California." California PUC issuing Rulemaking R. 18-10-007 on October 25, 2018

On October 25, 2018, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) voted out an Order Instituting Rulemaking (OIR) to provide guidance on the form and content on initial electric utility wildfire mitigation plans (WMP), provide a way to review the initial plans, and develop and refine the review process for future wildfire mitigation plans. Ordered to be parties to the proceeding are Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric, Liberty Utilities/CalPeco Electric, Bear Valley Electric Service, and Pacific Power (PacifiCorp.).

As background, Senate Bill 901 put in place a new Public Utilities Code Section 8386, and this requires all California electric utilities to prepare and submit wildfire mitigation plans that describe their plans to prevent, combat and respond to wildfires affecting their service territories. The CPUC's OIR focuses on this new PU Code section, and states that this will be the docket where Section 8386 is implemented and where the plans will be reviewed. Thus the scope is narrow and focused on the WMPs. The OIR goes to great length to say what is NOT included in the OIR scope: wildfire mitigation measures, utility recovery of costs related to WMPs (which SB901 mandates must go into general rate case applications which are periodic ), and no explicit expenditures in WMP, although in evaluating plans, the Commission may weigh the potential cost implications of measures proposed in the plans. Thus as a result, the OIR is deemed a "ratemaking" and has ex parte requirements. The OIR dispenses with hearings given the short time frame under the statute and will proceed based on a written record.

In his comments at the October 25th voting meeting, President Picker noted the very short timeline to get the initial WMPs filed. The first wildfire migitation plans are due before the next wildfire season begins -- the Summer of 2019. President Picker also noted that the Commission will work closely with other state agencies with expertise in WMPs, including but not limited to the CA Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CALFIRE) and Office of Emergency Services (OES). He noted the CPUC does not have wildfire mitigation plan expertise in-house yet. The OIR told respondent utilities to be ready to act on short deadlines and be cooperative and as forthcoming as possible to meet the legislative deadlines.

Schedule:

Comments on OIR: Due ten days after OIR issued

Prehearing Conference: November 14, 2018, 10:30 AM, at CPUC Hearing Room A, 505 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA

Scoping Memo Released: December 2018

Comments on Instructions for Initial WMP: 10 days after Scoping Memo Issued

Initial WMPs filed: February 2019

Opening Comments on Initial WMPs: 20 days after Plan Filing

Reply Comments on Initial WMPs: 10 days after Opening Comments

Decision on Initial WMP: 3 months from Plan filing/service, unless extended by SB901, PU Code 8386(e)

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