Today's Law As Amended


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SB-599 Public Utilities Commission: proceedings.(2021-2022)



As Amends the Law Today


SECTION 1.

 Section 1701.3 of the Public Utilities Code is amended to read:

1701.3.
 (a) Except as specified in subdivision (h), this section shall apply only to ratesetting cases, except, if the commissioner assigned pursuant to Section 1701.1 has determined that a ratesetting case does not require a hearing, the procedures prescribed by subdivisions (b), (d), (f), and (i) shall not apply.
(b) The assigned commissioner shall determine prior to  before  the first hearing whether the commissioner or the assigned administrative law judge shall be designated as the principal hearing officer. The principal hearing officer shall be present for more than one-half of the hearing days. The decision of the principal hearing officer shall be the proposed decision.
(c) An alternate decision may be issued by the assigned commissioner or the assigned administrative law judge who is not the principal hearing officer. Any alternate decision may be filed with the commission and served upon all parties to the proceeding any time prior to before the  issuance of a final decision by the commission, consistent with the requirements of Section 311.
(d) The commission shall establish a procedure for any party to request the presence of a commissioner at a hearing. The assigned commissioner shall be present at any closing arguments in the case.
(e) The principal hearing officer shall present the proposed decision to the full commission in a public meeting. The alternate decision, if any, shall also be presented to the full commission at that public meeting.
(f) The presentation to the full commission shall contain a record of the number of days of the hearing, the number of days that each commissioner was present, and whether the decision was completed on time.
(g) The commission shall provide by rule for peremptory challenges and challenges for cause of the administrative law judge. Challenges for cause shall include, but not be limited to, financial interests and prejudice. All parties shall be entitled to unlimited peremptory challenges in any case in which the administrative law judge has within the previous 12 months served in any capacity in an advocacy position at the commission, been employed by a regulated public utility, or has represented a party or has been an interested person in the case.
(h) (1) Ex parte communications in ratesetting cases and catastrophic wildfire proceedings are subject to the disclosure requirements of this article. The commission, by order or ruling, may prohibit ex parte communications in a ratesetting case or catastrophic wildfire proceeding.
(2) Oral communications may be permitted by a decisionmaker if all parties are given not less than three working days’ notice. No individual ex parte meetings shall be held during the three business days before the commission’s scheduled vote on the decision.
(3) (A) If an ex parte communication meeting is granted to any party, all other parties, upon request, shall also be granted individual ex parte meetings of a substantially equal period of time and shall be sent a notice of that opportunity at the time the request is granted.
(B) Subparagraph (A) shall not apply if the decisionmaker participating in the ex parte communication meeting is a member of the personal staff of a commissioner acting in a policy or legal advisory capacity and no other decisionmaker to whom subparagraph (A) applies is a participant.
(4) Written ex parte communications by any interested person may be permitted if copies of the communication are transmitted to all parties on the same day as the original communication.
(5) Written and oral ex parte communications shall not be part of the evidentiary record of the proceeding.
(6) (A) The commission may establish a “quiet period” during which no oral or written ex parte communications may be permitted and the commission may meet in closed session during that period.
(B) A quiet period may be established only during the following periods:
(i) After a proposed decision or order is issued and is scheduled for a vote.
(ii) After a proposed decision is scheduled for a vote, but is then held and rescheduled for a vote.
(C) The commission shall establish a quiet period during the three business days before the commission’s scheduled vote on a decision.
(D) Notwithstanding subparagraphs (A), (B), and (C), the commission may meet in closed session on any proposed decision in a catastrophic wildfire proceeding and may establish a quiet period during the three business days before the commission’s scheduled vote on the decision, during which time no written or oral ex parte communications may be permitted.
(E) (i) Any meeting of the commission during a quiet period shall require a minimum of three days’ advance public notice.
(ii) The requirement specified in subparagraph (F) of paragraph (1) of subdivision (b) of Section 11123 of the Government Code shall not apply to a meeting of the commission during a quiet period that is held by teleconference.
(i) Any party has the right to present a final oral argument of its case before the commission. Upon request to present a final oral argument before the commission, the argument shall be scheduled in a timely manner. A quorum of the commission shall be present for the final oral arguments.
(j) The commission may, in issuing its decision, adopt, modify, or set aside the proposed decision or any part of the decision based on evidence in the record. The final decision of the commission shall be issued not later than 60 days after the issuance of the proposed decision. Under extraordinary circumstances the commission may extend this date for a reasonable period. The 60-day period shall be extended for 30 days if any alternate decision is proposed pursuant to Section 311.

SEC. 2.

 Section 1701.8 of the Public Utilities Code is amended to read:

1701.8.
 (a) For purposes of this section, the following definitions apply:
(1) “Covered wildfire” means any wildfire ignited on or after July 12, 2019, caused by an electrical corporation as determined by the governmental agency responsible for determining causation.
(2) “Wildfire Fund” means the Wildfire Fund created pursuant to Section 3284.
(b) The following procedures and standards apply to a catastrophic wildfire proceeding:
(1) (A) An electrical corporation may file an application pursuant to Section 451 or 451.1, as applicable, at any time after it has paid, or entered into binding commitments to pay, all or, if authorized by the commission for good cause, substantially all third-party damage claims, including payments made pursuant to judgments or settlement agreements related to a covered wildfire. Except as authorized by the commission for good cause, before filing the application, the electrical corporation shall exhaust all rights to indemnification or other claims, contractual or otherwise, against any third parties, including collecting insurance proceeds, related to the covered wildfire.
(B) If an electrical corporation has received payments from the Wildfire Fund for a third-party damage claim for the covered wildfire, the electrical corporation shall file an application to recover the costs pursuant to subparagraph (A) no later than the earlier of the following:
(i) The date when it has resolved all third-party damage claims and exhausted all right to indemnification or other claims, contractual or otherwise, against any third parties, including collecting insurance proceeds, related to the covered wildfire.
(ii) The date that is 45 days after the date the administrator requests the electrical corporation to make such an application.
(2) The president of the commission, upon the initiation of a catastrophic wildfire proceeding by the filing of an application pursuant to paragraph (1), shall assign a commissioner to act as the presiding officer in the proceeding and an administrative law judge to assist in conducting the proceeding.
(3) Within 15 days of the filing date of the application, the commission shall notice a prehearing conference, which shall be held within 25 days of the filing date.
(4) (A) Within 30 days of the filing date of the application, the assigned commissioner shall prepare and issue, by order or ruling, a scoping memorandum that states that the scope of the proceeding shall be whether the electrical corporation’s costs and expenses for the covered wildfire are just and reasonable pursuant to Section 451 or 451.1, as applicable.
(B) The scoping memorandum shall establish a schedule for the proceeding, including the date of issuance of a proposed decision that is no later than 12 months after the filing date of the application.
(C) The assigned commissioner may extend the time established in the scoping memorandum for the date of issuance of a proposed decision by up to six months upon a showing of good cause.
(5) Notwithstanding any other law, the commission may meet in closed session at any point during the pendency of the catastrophic wildfire proceeding with a three-day notice to the public if the commission establishes a quiet period pursuant to paragraph (6) of subdivision (h) of Section 1701.3.

SEC. 3.

 Section 1701.9 is added to the Public Utilities Code, to read:

1701.9.
 The following provisions apply during the pendency of a commission proceeding, except these provisions do not apply during an adjudicatory or quasi-legislative proceeding:
(a) The commission may meet in closed session to deliberate on a proposed decision, order, or resolution after providing three-day advance notice to the public.
(b) The commission shall establish a quiet period during the three business days before the commission’s scheduled vote on a decision, during which oral and written ex parte communications shall not be permitted.
(c) The requirement specified in subparagraph (F) of paragraph (1) of subdivision (b) of Section 11123 of the Government Code shall not apply to a meeting of the commission during a quiet period that is held by teleconference.
SEC. 4.
 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.