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AB-987 Public utilities: civil penalties: unplanned electrical outages and deenergization events.(2021-2022)

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Date Published: 03/26/2021 04:00 AM
AB987:v98#DOCUMENT

Amended  IN  Assembly  March 25, 2021

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2021–2022 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill
No. 987


Introduced by Assembly Member Low

February 18, 2021


An act to amend Section 590 of the Public Utilities Code, relating to electricity. An act to amend Sections 2104, 8385, and 8386 of, and to add Sections 2105.5, 2106.5, 2774.2, 2774.3, and 8386.7 to, the Public Utilities Code, relating to public utilities.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 987, as amended, Low. Electrical corporations: reporting. Public utilities: civil penalties: unplanned electrical outages and deenergization events.
(1) Under existing law, the Public Utilities Commission has regulatory authority over public utilities, including electrical corporations. Existing law authorizes the commission to establish rules for all public utilities, subject to control by the Legislature. The Public Utilities Act provides for civil penalties for any violation of the act or for or a failure to comply with any part of any order, decision, rule, direction, demand, or requirement of the commission.
This bill would require the commission to require any penalty imposed on a public utility, person, or corporation for a violation of the act, or for a violation of any order, decision, decree, rule, direction, demand, or requirement of the commission, to be paid no later than 2 years from the date the penalty was imposed, as provided.
(2) Existing law requires the commission to adopt inspection, maintenance, repair, and replacement standards for the distribution systems of electrical corporations in order to provide high-quality, safe, and reliable service. Existing law requires the commission to conduct a review to determine whether the standards have been met and to perform the review after every major outage.
This bill would require an electrical corporation to pay a customer who lost electricity because of an outage a penalty of $250 per 24-hour period, or any part thereof, in which the customer was without electricity if the outage was caused, in whole or in part, by the failure of the utility’s electric plant, as defined, or equipment that is older than its expected lifetime and was not adequately maintained or upgraded. The bill would require an electrical corporation to pay a customer who lost electricity because of a deenergization event a penalty of $250 per 24-hour period, or any part thereof, in which the customer was without electricity if the deenergization event was undertaken in substantial part because the utility either failed to undertake required vegetation management or failed to timely undertake electrical system upgrades necessary to provide resilience for reasonably foreseeable adverse weather events. The bill would require an electrical corporation to establish a memorandum account by June 1, 2023, to track expenses paid to customers, local governments, and others for claims or penalties resulting from an electrical outage, including a deenergization event, and would require the commission to establish rules to determine whether the expenses paid can be recovered from ratepayers, but would prohibit an electrical corporation from recovering the above-described $250 penalties.
(3) Existing law requires an electrical corporation to file an annual reliability report with the commission that includes information on the reliability of service to end-use customers. Existing law requires the electrical corporation to conspicuously post its annual report on its internet website.
This bill would require an electrical corporation to report the age and anticipated or rated operating life, whichever is less, of its electric plant to the commission and to annually update that information to reflect replacement or upgrades to its electric plant. The bill would require the commission to review the report for accuracy and adequacy. Upon the commission’s acceptance of the report as being sufficient, the bill would require the electrical corporation to post the report on its internet website and require the commission to maintain a Uniform Resource Locator link to each electrical corporation’s most current report on the commission’s internet website. The bill would authorize a city or county to request that the electrical corporation identify any electric plant that is used to supply service within the city or county that is beyond its anticipated or rated operating life. If an electrical corporation has an unplanned outage of electrical service to 100 or more service connections within its service territory and determines that the outage resulted from a failure of the electrical corporation’s electric plant, the bill would require the electrical corporation to report that failure to the commission and include that information in an annual reliability report. If an electrical corporation has an unplanned outage of electrical service to 100 or more service connections within its service territory, the bill would require the electrical corporation to (A) promptly notify consumers of the outage by telephone or text message using the contact information that the electrical corporation has in its possession and provide an estimate of how long it will take to restore electrical service to the customer, and (B) promptly notify all public safety offices, critical first responders, including police, sheriff’s and fire departments, health care facilities, city offices, and operators of telecommunications infrastructure with premises within the footprint of the outage of the existence of the outage and an estimate of how long it will take to restore electrical service to the area experiencing the outage.
(4) Existing law requires each electrical corporation to annually prepare and submit a wildfire mitigation plan to the commission for review and approval, as specified. Following approval, the commission is required to oversee compliance with the plans. Existing law requires a wildfire mitigation plan of an electrical corporation to include, among other things, protocols for deenergizing portions of the electrical distribution system that consider the associated impacts on public safety. As part of these protocols, an electrical corporation is required to include protocols related to mitigating the public safety impacts of deenergizing portions of the electrical distribution system that consider customers that receive medical baseline allowances. Existing law authorizes an electrical corporation to deploy backup electrical resources or provide financial assistance for backup electrical resources to a customer receiving a medical baseline allowance if the customer meets specified conditions.
This bill would require an electrical corporation’s wildfire mitigation plan include mitigating protocols that consider impacts on customers who rely on life-support equipment that operates on electricity or who have medical conditions that may put them at risk during a deenergization event. The bill would require that the protocols require the provision of backup generators or other suitable backup electrical resources to those customers residing in an area planned for deenergization who rely on life-support equipment that operates on electricity and the provision of reasonable accommodation for those customers residing in an area planned for deenergization who may be at risk from a medical condition during a deenergization event.
Existing law requires a wildfire mitigation plan of an electrical corporation to also include appropriate and feasible procedures for notifying a customer who may be impacted by the deenergizing of electrical lines and requires these procedures to direct notification to all public safety offices, critical first responders, health care facilities, and operators of telecommunications infrastructure with premises within the footprint of potential deenergization for a given event.
This bill would require that a wildfire mitigation plan include appropriate and feasible procedures for notifying a customer 48 hours in advance who may be impacted by a deenergization event, including procedures for those customers who rely on life-support equipment that operates on electricity or who have medical conditions that may put them at risk during a deenergization event. The bill would require that the procedures direct notification to all public safety offices, critical first responders, health care facilities, city offices, and operators of telecommunications infrastructure with premises within the footprint of potential deenergization for a given event. The bill would require an electrical corporation to promptly post notice of a planned deenergization event on its internet website when it determines that it will, or may, institute a deenergization event. The bill would require that an electrical corporation’s customer notification procedures enable public media outlets to request notifications of a planned deenergization event along with procedures for providing the requested notification. The bill would require an electrical corporation that undertakes a deenergization event that either lasts longer than 12 hours or, if the temperature is 100 degrees or hotter, lasts 5 hours or longer, to provide a check for $250 prior to the next billing cycle to every residential customer to compensate the residential customer for anticipated expenses of traveling to, and staying at, a location with electrical service and any incidental expenses, such as spoiled food, unless the consumer elects otherwise.
(5) 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 certain provisions of the bill would be included in the act, a violation of which would be a crime, and certain requirements of the bill would be implemented or enforced by the commission, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program by creating a new crime.
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.

Under existing law, the Public Utilities Commission has regulatory authority over public utilities, including electrical corporations. Existing law requires the commission to adopt inspection, maintenance, repair, and replacement standards for the distribution systems of electrical corporations in order to provide high-quality, safe, and reliable service. Existing law requires the commission to require each electrical corporation to report annually on its compliance with those standards. Existing law requires the electrical corporation’s report to be made available to the public, except as provided.

This bill would make a nonsubstantive change to the public reporting provision.

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

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


SECTION 1.

 Section 2104 of the Public Utilities Code is amended to read:

2104.
 (a)Except Except as provided by Sections 2100 and 2107.5, actions to recover penalties under this part shall be brought in the name of the people of the State of California, in the superior court in and for the county, or city and county, in which the cause or some part thereof arose, or in which the corporation complained of has its principal place of business, or in which the person complained of resides. The action shall be commenced and prosecuted to final judgment by the attorney or agent of the commission. All fines and penalties may be sued for and recovered. The commission may enjoin the sale of a public utility’s or common carrier’s assets to satisfy unpaid fines and penalties. The commission may use any of the remedies afforded to a creditor under the Uniform Voidable Transactions Act (Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 3439) of Title 2 of Part 2 of Division 4 of the Civil Code). Respondents who fraudulently transfer assets to avoid paying commission-imposed fines or penalties are subject to prosecution under Sections 154, 531, and 531a of the Penal Code. In all of these actions, the procedure and rules of evidence shall be the same as in ordinary civil actions, except for prosecutions under the Penal Code or as otherwise herein provided. All Except as provided in Section 2106.5, all fines and penalties recovered by the state in any action, together with the costs thereof, shall be paid into the State Treasury to the credit of the General Fund. Any action may be compromised or discontinued on application of the commission upon the terms the court approves and orders.

(b)This section shall become operative on January 1, 2014.

SEC. 2.

 Section 2105.5 is added to the Public Utilities Code, to read:

2105.5.
 (a) The commission shall require any penalty imposed on a public utility, person, or corporation for a violation of this part, or for a violation of any order, decision, decree, rule, direction, demand, or requirement of the commission, to be paid no later than two years from the date the penalty was imposed.
(b) The two-year time limit described in subdivision (a) shall be tolled while any appeal of a penalty imposed for violation of this part is pending.

SEC. 3.

 Section 2106.5 is added to the Public Utilities Code, to read:

2106.5.
 (a) On or before June 1, 2023, the commission shall require an electrical corporation to establish a memorandum account to track expenses paid to customers, local governments, and others for claims or penalties resulting from an electrical outage, including a deenergization event. The commission shall establish rules to determine whether the expenses paid can be recovered from ratepayers.
(b) (1) For an electrical outage caused, in whole or in part, by the failure of an electrical corporation’s electric plant or equipment that is older than its expected lifetime and has not been adequately maintained or upgraded, the commission shall require the electrical corporation to pay a customer who lost electricity because of the electrical outage a penalty of two hundred fifty dollars ($250) per 24-hour period, or any part thereof, in which the customer was without electricity. Costs accrued during the outage by an electrical corporation shall be paid to the customer within the utility bill cycle encompassing the dates of the event.
(2) For a deenergization event, as defined in Section 8385, undertaken by an electrical corporation in substantial part because the electrical corporation either (A) has failed to undertake required vegetation management, or (B) has failed to timely undertake electrical system upgrades necessary to provide resilience for reasonably foreseeable adverse weather events, the commission shall require the electrical corporation to pay a customer who lost electricity because of the deenergization event a penalty of two hundred fifty dollars ($250) per 24-hour period, or any part thereof, in which the customer was without electricity. Costs accrued during the deenergization event by an electrical corporation shall be paid to the customer within the utility bill cycle encompassing the dates of the event.
(c) (1) For purposes of this section, the commission shall determine whether an electrical outage was caused, in whole or in part, by the failure of an electrical corporation’s electric plant or equipment that is older than its expected lifetime.
(2) For purposes of this section, the commission shall determine whether a deenergization event was undertaken in substantial part because either (A) the electrical corporation has failed to undertake required vegetation management, or (B) has failed to timely undertake electrical system upgrades necessary to provide resilience for reasonably foreseeable adverse weather events.
(3) Pursuant to Section 748.1, an electrical corporation shall not recover in rates the costs of complying with subdivision (b) of this section.

SEC. 4.

 Section 2774.2 is added to the Public Utilities Code, to read:

2774.2.
 (a) An electrical corporation shall report the age and anticipated or rated operating life, whichever is less, of its electric plant to the commission and, by each January 1, shall annually update that information to reflect replacement or upgrades to its electric plant. For electric plant that is beyond its rated operating life, the electrical corporation shall report on the appropriateness of its continued use and any upgrades made to extend its useful life and when it was last inspected and determined not to require replacement. For purposes of this section, “anticipated operating life means the operating life” of an item of electric plant that is appreciably reduced from the rated operating life based upon adverse environmental or other factors applicable to the location or operation of the electric plant.
(b) The commission, by each April 1, shall review the report for accuracy and adequacy and notify the electrical corporation of any deficiencies that need to be corrected or, if the commission determines that the report meets the requirements of subdivision (a), notify the electrical corporation that the report is sufficient.
(c) Upon the commission’s acceptance of the report as sufficient, the electrical corporation shall post the report on its internet website. The commission shall maintain a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) link to each electrical corporation’s most current report on the commission’s internet website.
(d) (1) A city or county may request that an electrical corporation identify any electric plant that is used to supply service within the city or county that is beyond its anticipated or rated operating life.
(2) An electrical corporation shall respond to a request pursuant to this subdivision within a reasonable period of time, not to exceed 60 days, unless the commission approves an extension of time. An electrical corporation may apply to the commission for an extension of time to respond to a request pursuant to this subdivision. An application for an extension of time shall include the factual basis for why further time is needed to respond to the request. The commission may, upon a determination of good cause, grant an extension of time, not to exceed 60 days, to the electrical corporation to respond to the request.

SEC. 5.

 Section 2774.3 is added to the Public Utilities Code, to read:

2774.3.
 (a) If an electrical corporation has an unplanned outage of electrical service to 100 or more service connections within its service territory, the electrical corporation shall promptly do both of the following
(1) Notify consumers of the outage by telephone or text message using the contact information that the electrical corporation has in its possession and provide an estimate of how long it will take to restore electrical service to the customer.
(2) Notify all public safety offices, critical first responders, including police, sheriff, and fire departments, health care facilities, city offices, and operators of telecommunications infrastructure with premises within the footprint of the outage of the existence of the outage and an estimate of how long it will take to restore electrical service to the area experiencing the outage.
(b) If an electrical corporation has an unplanned outage of electrical service to 100 or more service connections within its service territory and determines that the outage resulted from a failure of the electrical corporation’s electric plant, the electrical corporation shall report that failure to the commission and include that information in its annual reliability report prepared consistent with Section 2774.1.

SEC. 6.

 Section 8385 of the Public Utilities Code is amended to read:

8385.
 (a) For purposes of this chapter, the following shall apply:
(1) “Compliance period” means a period of approximately one year.
(2) “Deenergization event” means the proactive interruption of electrical service for the purpose of mitigating or avoiding the risk of causing a wildfire.

(2)

(3) “Electrical cooperative” has the same meaning as defined in Section 2776.
(b) The commission shall supervise an electrical corporation’s compliance with the requirements of this chapter pursuant to the Public Utilities Act (Part 1 (commencing with Section 201) of Division 1). Nothing in this chapter affects the commission’s authority or jurisdiction over an electrical cooperative or local publicly owned electrical corporation. electric utility.

SEC. 7.

 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 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 part of these protocols, each electrical corporation shall include protocols related to mitigating the public safety impacts of disabling reclosers and deenergizing portions of the electrical distribution system that consider the impacts on all of the following:
(A) Critical first responders.
(B) Health and communication infrastructure.

(C)Customers who receive medical baseline allowances pursuant to subdivision (c) of Section 739. The electrical corporation may deploy backup electrical resources or provide financial assistance for backup electrical resources to a customer receiving a medical baseline allowance for a customer who meets all of the following requirements:

(i) The customer relies

(C) (i)  Customers who rely on life-support equipment that operates on electricity to sustain life. or who have medical conditions that may put them at risk during a deenergization event.

(ii)The customer demonstrates financial need, including through enrollment in the California Alternate Rates for Energy program created pursuant to Section 739.1.

(iii)The customer is not eligible for backup electrical resources provided through medical services, medical insurance, or community resources.

(D)Subparagraph (C)

(ii)  The protocols adopted pursuant to this subparagraph shall not be construed as preventing an electrical corporation from deploying require the provision of backup electrical resources generators or providing financial assistance for other suitable backup electrical resources under any other authority. to those customers residing in an area planned for deenergization who rely on life-support equipment that operates on electricity and the provision of reasonable accommodation for those customers residing in an area planned for deenergization who may be at risk from a medical condition during a deenergization event.
(7) Appropriate and feasible procedures for notifying a customer 48 hours in advance who may be impacted by the deenergizing of electrical lines, a deenergization event, including procedures for those customers receiving that rely on life-support equipment that operates on electricity or who have medical baseline allowances conditions that may put them at risk during a deenergization event, as described in paragraph (6). The procedures shall direct notification to all public safety offices, critical first responders, including police, sheriff’s and fire departments, health care facilities, city offices, and operators of telecommunications infrastructure with premises within the footprint of potential deenergization for a given event. An electrical corporation shall promptly post notice of a planned deenergization event on its internet website when it determines that it will, or may, institute a deenergization event. An electrical corporation’s customer notification procedures shall enable public media outlets, including newspapers of general circulation, television stations, and radio stations providing media coverage to an area that may be affected by a deenergization event to request notifications of a planned deenergization event along with procedures for providing the requested notification when the electrical corporation determines that it will, or may, institute a deenergization event.
(8) Plans for vegetation management.
(9) Plans for inspections of the electrical corporation’s electrical infrastructure.
(10) Protocols for the deenergization of the electrical corporation’s transmission infrastructure, for instances when the deenergization may impact customers who, or entities that, are dependent upon the infrastructure.
(11) 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 commission’s Safety Model Assessment Proceeding (A.15-05-002, et al.) 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.
(12) A description of how the plan accounts for the wildfire risk identified in the electrical corporation’s Risk Assessment Mitigation Phase filing.
(13) 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, insulating of distribution wires, and replacing poles.
(14) 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.
(15) 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.
(16) 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.
(17) A methodology for identifying and presenting enterprisewide safety risk and wildfire-related risk that is consistent with the methodology used by other electrical corporations unless the commission determines otherwise.
(18) 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.
(19) A statement of how the electrical corporation will restore service after a wildfire.
(20) 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.
(21) 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.
(22) 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 division’s decision regarding approval of the plan. The 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. 8.

 Section 8386.7 is added to the Public Utilities Code, to read:

8386.7.
 An electrical corporation that undertakes a deenergization event that either lasts longer than 12 hours or, if the temperature is 100 degrees or hotter in the area affected by the deenergization event, lasts 5 hours or longer, shall provide a check for two hundred fifty dollars ($250) prior to the next billing cycle to every residential customer to compensate the residential customer for anticipated expenses of traveling to, and staying at, a location with electrical service and any incidental expenses, such as spoiled food. Only one check shall be provided for each service connection. A residential customer may forgo receipt of the check.

SEC. 9.

  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.Section 590 of the Public Utilities Code is amended to read:
590.

The commission shall require each electrical corporation to report annually on its compliance with the standards or rules adopted by the commission pursuant to Section 364. The electrical corporation’s report shall be made available to the public, except that the commission may, consistent with other provisions of law, withhold from the public information generated or obtained pursuant to this section that it deems would pose a security threat to the public if disclosed.