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November 14, 2018 4:11 PM

CPUC Acts to Further Protect State from Wildfires

SAN FRANCISCO, October 25, 2018 – The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) today acted to further protect the state from wildfires related to electric facilities by setting the framework to provide guidance on initial utility wildfire mitigation plans, and inviting the input of all stakeholders in guiding its approach.

Senate Bill 901 requires electric utilities to prepare and submit wildfire mitigation plans that describe the utilities’ plans to prevent, combat, and respond to wildfires affecting their service territories. Through the proceeding it opened today, the CPUC will review the initial plans, and develop and refine the content of and process for review and implementation of wildfire mitigation plans to be filed in future years.

“This is the first of many steps the CPUC will take to implement Senate Bill 901, which addresses a number of issues in our jurisdiction related to wildfires,” said CPUC President Michael Picker.  “Our immediate task is to develop the first round of the annual utility wildfire mitigation plans and to consider requirements for subsequent plans in the future. This issue is vital for the safety of California and we will work quickly and diligently to get it done.”

Investor-owned utilities have been required to develop wildfire mitigation plans since 2017. Senate Bill 901 modified those existing requirements in a number of ways, including requiring a more nuanced and detailed list of information that the utilities must provide in their plans.  In addition, the CPUC will review the plans, modify the plans when necessary, and eventually adopt plans.  The bill also directs the CPUC to pursue enforcement actions for non-compliance with the plans.

The utilities that are required to participate in this proceeding are Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric, Liberty Utilities/CalPeco Electric, Bear Valley Electric Service, and Pacific Power.

The CPUC invites the input of all stakeholders in guiding its approach.  The CPUC has a Memorandum of Understanding with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), and has long worked with CAL FIRE on improving wildfire mitigation. Based on that work and input from the parties, the proceeding opened today will include development of  proposed guidance for what the electric utilities’ wildfire mitigation plans should contain.

The proceeding opened today is the first step in implementing one central aspect of the sweeping requirements of Senate Bill 901.  Because of California’s recent experience that the wildfire season is beginning sooner and ending later, it is important to have the initial set of electric utility wildfire mitigation plans approved as close to the beginning of summer 2019 as possible, as directed in the legislation. As such, at times the proceeding may move very quickly, with either shortened deadlines or fewer rounds of input.  All parties should be prepared to act on short deadlines so the CPUC can meet the legislative mandate, consistent with due process.

“Wildfires represent a serious and pervasive threat to the State, which will only intensify as our climate further changes,” said Commissioner Clifford Rechtschaffen. “The proceeding we opened today is the first step in ensuring that the wildfire mitigation plans of our electric utilities meet the very high standards set forth in Senate Bill 901.”

The proposal voted on is available at: http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PublishedDocs/Published/G000/M233/K780/233780452.PDF.

The CPUC regulates services and utilities, safeguards the environment, and assures Californians’ access to safe and reliable utility infrastructure and services.  For more information on the CPUC, please visit www.cpuc.ca.gov.