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SB-982 Public utilities: safety enforcement program.(2019-2020)

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Date Published: 04/01/2020 09:00 PM
SB982:v98#DOCUMENT

Amended  IN  Senate  April 01, 2020

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2019–2020 REGULAR SESSION

Senate Bill
No. 982


Introduced by Senator Hill

February 12, 2020


An act to amend Sections 309.5 and 1702.5 of the Public Utilities Code, relating to public utilities.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


SB 982, as amended, Hill. Public utilities. utilities: safety enforcement program.
The California Constitution establishes the Public Utilities Commission and authorizes the commission to exercise ratemaking and rulemaking authority jurisdiction over all public utilities, as defined, subject to control by the Legislature. The Public Utilities Act authorizes the commission to supervise and regulate every public utility, including electrical and gas corporations, and to do all things that are necessary and convenient in the exercise of that power and jurisdiction. Existing law requires the commission to develop and implement a safety enforcement program applicable to electrical corporations and gas corporations that includes procedures for monitoring, data tracking and analysis, and investigations, as well as issuance of citations by commission staff under the direction of the executive director of the commission.
This bill would require the commission, by January 1, 2022, to development and implement a safety enforcement program for other public utilities under the jurisdiction of the commission.
Under existing law, a violation of the Public Utilities Act or any order, decision, rule, direction, demand, or requirement of the commission is a crime.
Because the above requirement would be a part of the act and because a violation of an order or decision of the commission implementing that requirements would be a crime, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program by creating a new crime.
Existing law establishes the Public Advocate’s Office within the commission to represent and advocate on behalf of the interests of public utility customers and subscribers within the jurisdiction of the commission.
This bill would expressly specify that the office is to advocate on behalf of customers of public utilities for the continuous, cost-effective improvement of the safety performance of public utilities.
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.

This bill would state the Legislature’s intent to enact legislation relating to public utilities.

Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: NOYES   Local Program: NOYES  

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


SECTION 1.

 Section 309.5 of the Public Utilities Code is amended to read:

309.5.
 (a) There is within the commission an independent Public Advocate’s Office of the Public Utilities Commission to represent and advocate on behalf of the interests of public utility customers and subscribers within the jurisdiction of the commission. The goal of the office shall be to obtain the lowest possible rate for service consistent with reliable and safe service levels. For revenue allocation and rate design matters, the office shall primarily consider the interests of residential and small commercial customers. For all proceedings, the office shall advocate on behalf of public utility customers for the continuous, cost-effective improvement of the safety performance of public utilities.
(b) The director of the office shall be appointed by, and serve at the pleasure of, the Governor, subject to confirmation by the Senate.
The director shall annually appear before the appropriate policy committees of the Assembly and the Senate to report on the activities of the office.
(c) The director shall develop a budget for the office that shall be subject to final approval of the Department of Finance. As authorized in the approved budget, the office shall employ personnel and resources, including attorneys and other legal support staff, at a level sufficient to ensure that customer and subscriber interests are effectively represented in all significant proceedings. The office may employ experts necessary to carry out its functions. The director may appoint a lead attorney who shall represent the office, and shall report to and serve at the pleasure of the director. The lead attorney for the office shall obtain adequate legal personnel for the work to be conducted by the office from the commission’s attorney appointed pursuant to Section 307. The commission’s attorney shall timely and appropriately fulfill all requests for legal personnel made by the lead attorney for the office, provided the office has sufficient moneys and positions in its budget for the services requested.
(d) The commission shall develop appropriate procedures to ensure that the existence of the office does not create a conflict of roles for any employee. The procedures shall include, but shall not be limited to, the development of a code of conduct and procedures for ensuring that advocates and their representatives on a particular case or proceeding are not advising decisionmakers on the same case or proceeding.
(e) The office may compel the production or disclosure of any information it deems necessary to perform its duties from any entity regulated by the commission, provided that any objections to any request for information shall be decided in writing by the assigned commissioner or by the president of the commission, if there is no assigned commissioner.
(f) There is hereby created the Public Utilities Commission Public Advocate’s Office Account in the General Fund. Moneys from the Public Utilities Commission Utilities Reimbursement Account in the General Fund shall be transferred in the annual Budget Act to the Public Utilities Commission Public Advocate’s Office Account. The funds in the Public Utilities Commission Public Advocate’s Office Account shall be a budgetary program fund administered and utilized exclusively by the office in the performance of its duties as determined by the director. The director shall annually submit a staffing report containing a comparison of the staffing levels for each five-year period.
(g) On or before January 10 of each year, the office shall provide to the chairperson of the fiscal committee of each house of the Legislature and to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee all of the following information:
(1) The number of personnel years utilized during the prior year by the office.
(2) The total dollars expended by the office in the prior year, the estimated total dollars expended in the current year, and the total dollars proposed for appropriation in the following budget year.
(3) Workload standards and measures for the office.
(h) The office shall meet and confer in an informal setting with a regulated entity prior to issuing a report or pleading to the commission regarding alleged misconduct, or a violation of a law or a commission rule or order, raised by the office in a complaint. The meet and confer process shall be utilized in good faith to reach agreement on issues raised by the office regarding any regulated entity in the complaint proceeding.

SEC. 2.

 Section 1702.5 of the Public Utilities Code is amended to read:

1702.5.
 (a) The commission shall, in an existing or new proceeding, develop and implement a safety enforcement program applicable to gas corporations and electrical corporations which that includes procedures for monitoring, data tracking and analysis, and investigations, as well as issuance of citations by commission staff, under the direction of the executive director. The enforcement program shall be designed to improve gas and electrical system safety through the enforcement of applicable law, or order or rule of the commission related to safety using a variety of enforcement mechanisms, including the issuance of corrective actions, orders, and citations by designated commission staff, and recommendations for action made to the commission by designated commission staff.
(1) When considering the issuance of citations and assessment of penalties, the commission staff shall take into account voluntary reporting of potential violations, voluntary removal or resolution efforts undertaken, the prior history of violations, the gravity of the violation, and the degree of culpability.
(2) The procedures shall include, but are not limited to, providing notice of violation within a reasonable period of time after the discovery of the violation.
(3) The commission shall adopt an administrative limit on the amount of monetary penalty that may be set by commission staff.
(b) The commission shall develop and implement an appeals process to govern the issuance and appeal of citations or resolution of corrective action orders issued by the commission staff. The appeals process shall provide the respondent a reasonable period of time, upon receiving a citation, to file a notice of appeal, shall afford an opportunity for a hearing, and shall require the hearing officer to expeditiously provide a draft disposition.
(c) The commission shall, within a reasonable time set by the commission, conclude a safety enforcement action with a finding of violation, a corrective action order, a citation, a determination of no violation, approval of the corrective actions undertaken by the gas corporation or electrical corporation, or other action. The commission may institute a formal proceeding regarding the alleged violation, potentially resulting in additional enforcement action, regardless of any enforcement action taken at the commission staff level.
(d) The commission shall implement the safety enforcement program for gas safety by July 1, 2014, and implement the safety enforcement program for electrical safety no later than January 1, 2015. By January 1, 2022, the commission shall implement the safety enforcement programs for other public utilities under the jurisdiction of the commission.
(e) This section does not apply to an exempt wholesale generator, a qualifying small power producer, or qualifying cogenerator, as defined in Section 796 of Title 16 of the United States Code and the regulations enacted pursuant thereto. Nothing in this section affects the commission’s authority pursuant to Section 761.3.

SEC. 3.

 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.
SECTION 1.

It is the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation relating to public utilities.