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SB-70 Electricity: undergrounding of electrical infrastructure.(2019-2020)

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Date Published: 08/19/2019 09:00 PM
SB70:v92#DOCUMENT

Amended  IN  Assembly  August 19, 2019
Amended  IN  Assembly  July 02, 2019
Amended  IN  Assembly  June 11, 2019
Amended  IN  Senate  May 17, 2019
Amended  IN  Senate  April 30, 2019
Amended  IN  Senate  April 03, 2019
Amended  IN  Senate  March 19, 2019

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2019–2020 REGULAR SESSION

Senate Bill
No. 70


Introduced by Senator Nielsen

January 09, 2019


An act to amend Section 8386 of the Public Utilities Code, relating to electricity.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


SB 70, as amended, Nielsen. Electricity: undergrounding of electrical infrastructure.
(1) Under existing law, the Public Utilities Commission has jurisdiction over public utilities, including electrical corporations. Under its existing authority, the commission requires certain electrical corporations to implement the California Overhead Conversion Program to provide financial assistance to local governments to facilitate projects that are in the public interest and replace overhead infrastructure with infrastructure in underground trenches. Existing law requires each electrical corporation to annually prepare and submit a wildfire mitigation plan to the commission Wildfire Safety Division of the commission for review and approval, and approval. Existing law also requires the commission division to conduct an annual oversee and complete a review of each electrical corporation’s compliance with its plan.
This bill would require each electrical corporation’s wildfire mitigation plan to additionally include a description of where and how the electrical corporation considered undergrounding electrical distribution lines within those areas of its service territory identified to have the highest wildfire risk in a commission fire threat map.
(2) Under existing law, a violation of any order, decision, rule, direction, demand, or requirement of the commission is a crime.
Because a violation of an order, decision, rule, direction, demand, or requirement of the commission implementing the above provisions would be a crime, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.
This bill would provide that no reimbursement is required by this act for a specified reason.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: YES  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:

(a)Underground electrical lines are insulated and are less likely to be affected by hazardous weather conditions or animals than overhead electrical lines, and are protected from wildfires.

(b)Underground electrical lines generally have a longer lifespan, and create less interference with other communication infrastructure, than overhead electrical lines.

(c)Underground electrical lines create less liability than overhead electrical lines because overhead electrical lines are prone to falling on buildings and into roadways, which may cause damage and sometimes spark wildfires.

(d)Wildfires disrupt electrical grid reliability and threaten the transmission and distribution of electricity.

(e)Most of the 2017 and 2018 wildfires in northern California started along highways or utility corridors, highlighting the clear need for fuel breaks on roads and safer utility infrastructure.

(f)Californians will need to harden structures and infrastructure, including utility infrastructure, in order to live with wildfires and to reduce the risk of future catastrophic wildfires.

SEC. 2.Section 8386 of the Public Utilities Code is amended to read:
8386.

(a)Each electrical corporation shall construct, maintain, and operate its electrical lines and equipment in a manner that will minimize the risk of catastrophic wildfire posed by those electrical lines and equipment.

(b)Each electrical corporation shall annually prepare and submit a wildfire mitigation plan to the commission for review and approval, according to a schedule established by the commission, which may allow for the staggering of compliance periods for each electrical corporation. The Department of Forestry and Fire Protection shall consult with the commission on the review of each wildfire mitigation plan. Before approval, the commission may require modifications of the plans. Following approval, the commission shall oversee compliance with the plans pursuant to subdivision (h).

(c)The wildfire mitigation plan shall include all of the following:

(1)An accounting of the responsibilities of persons responsible for executing the plan.

(2)The objectives of the plan.

(3)A description of the preventive strategies and programs to be adopted by the electrical corporation to minimize the risk of its electrical lines and equipment causing catastrophic wildfires, including consideration of dynamic climate change risks.

(4)A description of the metrics the electrical corporation plans to use to evaluate the plan’s performance and the assumptions that underlie the use of those metrics.

(5)A discussion of how the application of previously identified metrics to previous plan performances has informed the plan.

(6)Protocols for disabling reclosers and deenergizing portions of the electrical distribution system that consider the associated impacts on public safety, as well as protocols related to mitigating the public safety impacts of those protocols, including impacts on critical first responders and on health and communication infrastructure.

(7)Appropriate and feasible procedures for notifying a customer who may be impacted by the deenergizing of electrical lines. The procedures shall consider the need to notify, as a priority, critical first responders, health care facilities, and operators of telecommunications infrastructure.

(8)Plans for vegetation management.

(9)Plans for inspections of the electrical corporation’s electrical infrastructure.

(10)A list that identifies, describes, and prioritizes all wildfire risks, and drivers for those risks, throughout the electrical corporation’s service territory, including all relevant wildfire risk and risk mitigation information that is part of Safety Model Assessment Proceeding and Risk Assessment Mitigation Phase filings. The list shall include, but not be limited to, both of the following:

(A)Risks and risk drivers associated with design, construction, operations, and maintenance of the electrical corporation’s equipment and facilities.

(B)Particular risks and risk drivers associated with topographic and climatological risk factors throughout the different parts of the electrical corporation’s service territory.

(11)A description of how the plan accounts for the wildfire risk identified in the electrical corporation’s Risk Assessment Mitigation Phase filing.

(12)A description of the actions the electrical corporation will take to ensure its system will achieve the highest level of safety, reliability, and resiliency, and to ensure that its system is prepared for a major event, including hardening and modernizing its infrastructure with improved engineering, system design, standards, equipment, and facilities, such as undergrounding, insulation of distribution wires, and pole replacement.

(13)A description of where and how the electrical corporation considered undergrounding electrical distribution lines within those areas of its service territory identified to have the highest wildfire risk in a commission fire threat map.

(14)A showing that the electrical corporation has an adequately sized and trained workforce to promptly restore service after a major event, taking into account employees of other utilities pursuant to mutual aid agreements and employees of entities that have entered into contracts with the electrical corporation.

(15)Identification of any geographic area in the electrical corporation’s service territory that is a higher wildfire threat than is currently identified in a commission fire threat map, and where the commission should consider expanding the high fire threat district based on new information or changes in the environment.

(16)A methodology for identifying and presenting enterprise-wide safety risk and wildfire-related risk that is consistent with the methodology used by other electrical corporations unless the commission determines otherwise.

(17)A description of how the plan is consistent with the electrical corporation’s disaster and emergency preparedness plan prepared pursuant to Section 768.6, including both of the following:

(A)Plans to prepare for, and to restore service after, a wildfire, including workforce mobilization and prepositioning equipment and employees.

(B)Plans for community outreach and public awareness before, during, and after a wildfire, including language notification in English, Spanish, and the top three primary languages used in the state other than English or Spanish, as determined by the commission based on the United States Census data.

(18)A statement of how the electrical corporation will restore service after a wildfire.

(19)Protocols for compliance with requirements adopted by the commission regarding activities to support customers during and after a wildfire, outage reporting, support for low-income customers, billing adjustments, deposit waivers, extended payment plans, suspension of disconnection and nonpayment fees, repair processing and timing, access to electrical corporation representatives, and emergency communications.

(20)A description of the processes and procedures the electrical corporation will use to do all of the following:

(A)Monitor and audit the implementation of the plan.

(B)Identify any deficiencies in the plan or the plan’s implementation and correct those deficiencies.

(C)Monitor and audit the effectiveness of electrical line and equipment inspections, including inspections performed by contractors, carried out under the plan and other applicable statutes and commission rules.

(21)Any other information that the commission may require.

(d)The commission shall accept comments on each plan from the public, other local and state agencies, and interested parties, and verify that the plan complies with all applicable rules, regulations, and standards, as appropriate.

(e)The commission shall approve each plan within three months of its submission, unless the commission makes a written determination, including reasons supporting the determination, that the three-month deadline cannot be met and issues an order extending the deadline. Each electrical corporation’s approved plan shall remain in effect until the commission approves the electrical corporation’s subsequent plan. At the time it approves each plan, the commission shall authorize the electrical corporation to establish a memorandum account to track costs incurred to implement the plan.

(f)The commission’s approval of a plan does not establish a defense to any enforcement action for a violation of a commission decision, order, or rule.

(g)The commission shall consider whether the cost of implementing each electrical corporation’s plan is just and reasonable in its general rate case application. Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as a restriction or limitation on Article 1 (commencing with Section 451) of Chapter 3 of Part 1 of Division 1.

(h)The commission shall conduct an annual review of each electrical corporation’s compliance with its plan as follows:

(1)Three months after the end of an electrical corporation’s initial compliance period as established by the commission pursuant to subdivision (b), and annually thereafter, each electrical corporation shall file with the commission a report addressing its compliance with the plan during the prior calendar year.

(2)(A)Before March 1, 2021, and before each March 1 thereafter, the commission, in consultation with the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, shall make available a list of qualified independent evaluators with experience in assessing the safe operation of electrical infrastructure.

(B)(i)Each electrical corporation shall engage an independent evaluator listed pursuant to subparagraph (A) to review and assess the electrical corporation’s compliance with its plan. The engaged independent evaluator shall consult with, and operate under the direction of, the Safety and Enforcement Division of the commission. The independent evaluator shall issue a report on July 1 of each year in which a report required by paragraph (1) is filed. As a part of the independent evaluator’s report, the independent evaluator shall determine whether the electrical corporation failed to fund any activities included in its plan.

(ii)The commission shall consider the independent evaluator’s findings, but the independent evaluator’s findings are not binding on the commission, except as otherwise specified.

(iii)The independent evaluator’s findings shall be used by the commission to carry out its obligations under Article 1 (commencing with Section 451) of Chapter 3 of Part 1 of Division 1.

(iv)The independent evaluator’s findings shall not apply to events that occurred before the initial plan is approved for the electrical corporation.

(3)The commission shall authorize the electrical corporation to recover in rates the costs of the independent evaluator.

(4)The commission shall complete its compliance review within 18 months after the submission of the electrical corporation’s compliance report.

(i)An electrical corporation shall not divert revenues authorized to implement the plan to any activities or investments outside of the plan.

(j)Each electrical corporation shall establish a memorandum account to track costs incurred for fire risk mitigation that are not otherwise covered in the electrical corporation’s revenue requirements. The commission shall review the costs in the memorandum accounts and disallow recovery of those costs the commission deems unreasonable.

SECTION 1.

 Section 8386 of the Public Utilities Code is amended to read:

8386.
 (a) Each electrical corporation shall construct, maintain, and operate its electrical lines and equipment in a manner that will minimize the risk of catastrophic wildfire posed by those electrical lines and equipment.
(b) Each electrical corporation shall annually prepare and submit a wildfire mitigation plan to the division Wildfire Safety Division for review and approval. In calendar year 2020, and thereafter, the plan shall cover at least a three-year period. The division shall establish a schedule for the submission of subsequent comprehensive wildfire mitigation plans, which may allow for the staggering of compliance periods for each electrical corporation. In its discretion, the division may allow the annual submissions to be updates to the last approved comprehensive wildfire mitigation plan; provided, that each electrical corporation shall submit a comprehensive wildfire mitigation plan at least once every three years.
(c) The wildfire mitigation plan shall include all of the following:
(1) An accounting of the responsibilities of persons responsible for executing the plan.
(2) The objectives of the plan.
(3) A description of the preventive strategies and programs to be adopted by the electrical corporation to minimize the risk of its electrical lines and equipment causing catastrophic wildfires, including consideration of dynamic climate change risks.
(4) A description of the metrics the electrical corporation plans to use to evaluate the plan’s performance and the assumptions that underlie the use of those metrics.
(5) A discussion of how the application of previously identified metrics to previous plan performances has informed the plan.
(6) Protocols for disabling reclosers and deenergizing portions of the electrical distribution system that consider the associated impacts on public safety, as well as protocols related to mitigating the public safety impacts of those protocols, including impacts on critical first responders and on health and communication infrastructure.
(7) Appropriate and feasible procedures for notifying a customer who may be impacted by the deenergizing of electrical lines. The procedures shall consider the need to notify, as a priority, critical first responders, health care facilities, and operators of telecommunications infrastructure.
(8) Plans for vegetation management.
(9) Plans for inspections of the electrical corporation’s electrical infrastructure.
(10) A list that identifies, describes, and prioritizes all wildfire risks, and drivers for those risks, throughout the electrical corporation’s service territory, including all relevant wildfire risk and risk mitigation information that is part of the Safety Model Assessment Proceeding and the Risk Assessment Mitigation Phase filings. The list shall include, but not be limited to, both of the following:
(A) Risks and risk drivers associated with design, construction, operations, and maintenance of the electrical corporation’s equipment and facilities.
(B) Particular risks and risk drivers associated with topographic and climatological risk factors throughout the different parts of the electrical corporation’s service territory.
(11) A description of how the plan accounts for the wildfire risk identified in the electrical corporation’s Risk Assessment Mitigation Phase filing.
(12) A description of the actions the electrical corporation will take to ensure its system will achieve the highest level of safety, reliability, and resiliency, and to ensure that its system is prepared for a major event, including hardening and modernizing its infrastructure with improved engineering, system design, standards, equipment, and facilities, such as undergrounding, insulation of distribution wires, and pole replacement.
(13) A description of where and how the electrical corporation considered undergrounding electrical distribution lines within those areas of its service territory identified to have the highest wildfire risk in a commission fire threat map.

(13)

(14) A showing that the utility electrical corporation has an adequate adequately sized and trained workforce to promptly restore service after a major event, taking into account employees of other utilities pursuant to mutual aid agreements and employees of entities that have entered into contracts with the utility. electrical corporation.

(14)

(15) Identification of any geographic area in the electrical corporation’s service territory that is a higher wildfire threat than is currently identified in a commission fire threat map, and where the commission should consider expanding the high fire threat district based on new information or changes in the environment.

(15)

(16) A methodology for identifying and presenting enterprise-wide safety risk and wildfire-related risk that is consistent with the methodology used by other electrical corporations unless the commission determines otherwise.

(16)

(17) A description of how the plan is consistent with the electrical corporation’s disaster and emergency preparedness plan prepared pursuant to Section 768.6, including both of the following:
(A) Plans to prepare for, and to restore service after, a wildfire, including workforce mobilization and prepositioning equipment and employees.
(B) Plans for community outreach and public awareness before, during, and after a wildfire, including language notification in English, Spanish, and the top three primary languages used in the state other than English or Spanish, as determined by the commission based on the United States Census data.

(17)

(18) A statement of how the electrical corporation will restore service after a wildfire.

(18)

(19) Protocols for compliance with requirements adopted by the commission regarding activities to support customers during and after a wildfire, outage reporting, support for low-income customers, billing adjustments, deposit waivers, extended payment plans, suspension of disconnection and nonpayment fees, repair processing and timing, access to utility electrical corporation representatives, and emergency communications.

(19)

(20) A description of the processes and procedures the electrical corporation will use to do all of the following:
(A) Monitor and audit the implementation of the plan.
(B) Identify any deficiencies in the plan or the plan’s implementation and correct those deficiencies.
(C) Monitor and audit the effectiveness of electrical line and equipment inspections, including inspections performed by contractors, carried out under the plan and other applicable statutes and commission rules.

(20)

(21) Any other information that the Wildfire Safety Division may require.
(d) The Wildfire Safety Division shall post all wildfire mitigation plans and annual updates on the commission’s internet website for no less than two months before the Wildfire Safety Division’s division’s decision regarding approval of the plan. The Wildfire Safety Division division shall accept comments on each plan from the public, other local and state agencies, and interested parties, and verify that the plan complies with all applicable rules, regulations, and standards, as appropriate.

SEC. 3.SEC. 2.

 No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution because the only costs that may be incurred by a local agency or school district will be incurred because this act creates a new crime or infraction, eliminates a crime or infraction, or changes the penalty for a crime or infraction, within the meaning of Section 17556 of the Government Code, or changes the definition of a crime within the meaning of Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution.