Code Section Group

Public Utilities Code - PUC

DIVISION 1. REGULATION OF PUBLIC UTILITIES [201 - 3260]

  ( Division 1 enacted by Stats. 1951, Ch. 764. )

PART 1. PUBLIC UTILITIES ACT [201 - 2120]

  ( Part 1 enacted by Stats. 1951, Ch. 764. )

CHAPTER 9. Hearings and Judicial Review [1701 - 1822]

  ( Chapter 9 enacted by Stats. 1951, Ch. 764. )

ARTICLE 5. Intervenor’s Fees and Expenses [1801 - 1812]
  ( Article 5 added by Stats. 1984, Ch. 297, Sec. 2. )

1801.
  

The purpose of this article is to provide compensation for reasonable advocate’s fees, reasonable expert witness fees, and other reasonable costs to public utility customers of participation or intervention in any proceeding of the commission.

(Amended by Stats. 1992, Ch. 942, Sec. 1. Effective January 1, 1993.)

1801.3.
  

It is the intent of the Legislature that:

(a) The provisions of this article shall apply to all formal proceedings of the commission involving electrical, gas, water, and telephone utilities.

(b) The provisions of this article shall be administered in a manner that encourages the effective and efficient participation of all groups that have a stake in the public utility regulation process.

(c) The process for finding eligibility for intervenor compensation be streamlined, by simplifying the preliminary showing by an intervenor of issues, budget, and costs.

(d) Intervenors be compensated for making a substantial contribution to proceedings of the commission, as determined by the commission in its orders and decisions, regardless of whether a settlement agreement is reached.

(e) Intervenor compensation be awarded to eligible intervenors in a timely manner, within a reasonable period after the intervenor has made the substantial contribution to a proceeding that is the basis for the compensation award.

(f) This article shall be administered in a manner that avoids unproductive or unnecessary participation that duplicates the participation of similar interests otherwise adequately represented or participation that is not necessary for a fair determination of the proceeding.

(Amended by Stats. 2016, Ch. 808, Sec. 8. (SB 512) Effective January 1, 2017.)

1802.
  

As used in this article:

(a) “Compensation” means payment for all or part, as determined by the commission, of reasonable advocate’s fees, reasonable expert witness fees, and other reasonable costs of preparation for and participation in a proceeding, and includes the fees and costs of obtaining an award under this article and of obtaining judicial review, if any.

(b) (1) “Customer” means any of the following:

(A) A participant representing consumers, customers, or subscribers of any electrical, gas, telephone, telegraph, or water corporation that is subject to the jurisdiction of the commission.

(B) A representative who has been authorized by a customer.

(C) A representative of a group or organization authorized pursuant to its articles of incorporation or bylaws to represent the interests of residential customers, or to represent small commercial customers who receive bundled electric service from an electrical corporation.

(2) “Customer” does not include any state, federal, or local government agency, any publicly owned public utility, or any entity that, in the commission’s opinion, was established or formed by a local government entity for the purpose of participating in a commission proceeding.

(c) “Expert witness fees” means recorded or billed costs incurred by a customer for an expert witness.

(d) “Eligible local government entity” means a city, county, or city and county that is not a publicly owned public utility that intervenes or participates in a commission proceeding for the purpose of protecting the health and safety of the residents within the entity’s jurisdiction following a catastrophic material loss suffered by its residents either in significant damage to infrastructure or loss of life and property, or both, as a direct result of public utility infrastructure.

(e) “Other reasonable costs” means reasonable out-of-pocket expenses directly incurred by a customer that are directly related to the contentions or recommendations made by the customer that resulted in a substantial contribution.

(f) “Party” means any interested party, respondent public utility, or commission staff in a hearing or proceeding.

(g) “Proceeding” means an application, complaint, or investigation, rulemaking, alternative dispute resolution procedures in lieu of formal proceedings as may be sponsored or endorsed by the commission, or other formal proceeding before the commission.

(h) “Significant financial hardship” means either that the customer cannot afford, without undue hardship, to pay the costs of effective participation, including advocate’s fees, expert witness fees, and other reasonable costs of participation, or that, in the case of a group or organization, the economic interest of the individual members of the group or organization is small in comparison to the costs of effective participation in the proceeding.

(i) “Small commercial customer” means any nonresidential customer with a maximum peak demand of less than 50 kilowatts. The commission may establish rules to modify or change the definition of “small commercial customer,” including use of criteria other than a peak demand threshold, if the commission determines that the modification or change will promote participation in proceedings at the commission by organizations representing small businesses, without incorporating large commercial and industrial customers.

(j) “Substantial contribution” means that, in the judgment of the commission, the customer’s presentation has substantially assisted the commission in the making of its order or decision because the order or decision has adopted in whole or in part one or more factual contentions, legal contentions, or specific policy or procedural recommendations presented by the customer. Where the customer’s participation has resulted in a substantial contribution, even if the decision adopts that customer’s contention or recommendations only in part, the commission may award the customer compensation for all reasonable advocate’s fees, reasonable expert fees, and other reasonable costs incurred by the customer in preparing or presenting that contention or recommendation.

(Amended by Stats. 2016, Ch. 808, Sec. 9. (SB 512) Effective January 1, 2017.)

1802.3.
  

A representative of a group representing the interests of small commercial customers who receive bundled electric service from an electrical corporation shall not be eligible for an award of compensation pursuant to this article if the representative has a conflict arising from prior representation before the commission. This conflict may not be waived.

(Added by Stats. 2003, Ch. 300, Sec. 3. Effective January 1, 2004.)

1802.4.
  

An eligible local government entity is eligible for an award of compensation pursuant to this article for its involvement to the extent that the involvement was for the purpose of protecting health and safety within the entity’s jurisdiction and to the extent that the involvement was germane to the material loss suffered by its residents.

(Added by Stats. 2016, Ch. 808, Sec. 10. (SB 512) Effective January 1, 2017.)

1802.5.
  

Participation by a customer that materially supplements, complements, or contributes to the presentation of another party, including the commission staff, may be fully eligible for compensation if the participation makes a substantial contribution to a commission order or decision, consistent with Section 1801.3.

(Added by Stats. 1992, Ch. 942, Sec. 3.5. Effective January 1, 1993.)

1803.
  

The commission shall award reasonable advocate’s fees, reasonable expert witness fees, and other reasonable costs of preparation for and participation in a hearing or proceeding to any customer who complies with Section 1804 and satisfies both of the following requirements:

(a) The customer’s presentation makes a substantial contribution to the adoption, in whole or in part, of the commission’s order or decision.

(b) Participation or intervention without an award of fees or costs imposes a significant financial hardship.

(Amended by Stats. 1992, Ch. 942, Sec. 4. Effective January 1, 1993.)

1803.1.
  

The commission shall adopt a policy to allow reasonable advocate’s fees, reasonable expert witness fees, and other reasonable costs of preparation for and participation in a hearing or proceeding to an eligible local government entity that complies with Section 1804 and satisfies all of the following requirements:

(a) The entity’s presentation makes a substantial contribution to the adoption, in whole or in part, of the commission’s order or decision.

(b) Participation or intervention without an award of fees or costs imposes a significant financial hardship.

(c) The subject of the hearing or proceeding is the result of a triggering event, as determined by the commission, that significantly impacted the residents of the local government entity.

(Added by Stats. 2016, Ch. 808, Sec. 11. (SB 512) Effective January 1, 2017.)

1804.
  

(a) (1) A customer who, or eligible local government entity that, intends to seek an award under this article shall, within 30 days after the prehearing conference is held, file and serve on all parties to the proceeding a notice of intent to claim compensation. In cases where no prehearing conference is scheduled or where the commission anticipates that the proceeding will take less than 30 days, the commission may determine the procedure to be used in filing these requests. In cases where the schedule would not reasonably allow parties to identify issues within the timeframe set forth above, or where new issues emerge subsequent to the time set for filing, the commission may determine an appropriate procedure for accepting new or revised notices of intent.

(2) (A) The notice of intent to claim compensation shall include both of the following:

(i) A statement of the nature and extent of the customer’s or eligible local government entity’s planned participation in the proceeding as far as it is possible to set it out when the notice of intent is filed.

(ii) An itemized estimate of the compensation that the customer or eligible local government entity expects to request, given the likely duration of the proceeding as it appears at the time.

(B) The notice of intent may also include a showing by the customer or eligible local government entity that participation in the hearing or proceeding would pose a significant financial hardship. Alternatively, such a showing shall be included in the request submitted pursuant to subdivision (c).

(C) Within 15 days after service of the notice of intent to claim compensation, the administrative law judge may direct the staff, and may permit any other interested party, to file a statement responding to the notice.

(b) (1) If the customer’s or eligible local government entity’s showing of significant financial hardship was included in the notice filed pursuant to subdivision (a), the administrative law judge, in consultation with the assigned commissioner, shall issue within 30 days thereafter a preliminary ruling addressing whether the customer or eligible local government entity will be eligible for an award of compensation. The ruling shall address whether a showing of significant financial hardship has been made. A finding of significant financial hardship shall create a rebuttable presumption of eligibility for compensation in other commission proceedings commencing within one year of the date of that finding.

(2) The administrative law judge may, in any event, issue a ruling addressing issues raised by the notice of intent to claim compensation. The ruling may point out similar positions, areas of potential duplication in showings, unrealistic expectation for compensation, and any other matter that may affect the customer’s or eligible local government entity’s ultimate claim for compensation. Failure of the ruling to point out similar positions or potential duplication or any other potential impact on the ultimate claim for compensation shall not imply approval of any claim for compensation. A finding of significant financial hardship in no way ensures compensation. Similarly, the failure of the customer or eligible local government entity to identify a specific issue in the notice of intent or to precisely estimate potential compensation shall not preclude an award of reasonable compensation if a substantial contribution is made.

(c) Following issuance of a final order or decision by the commission in the hearing or proceeding, a customer who, or eligible local government entity that, has been found, pursuant to subdivision (b), to be eligible for an award of compensation may file within 60 days a request for an award. The request shall include at a minimum a detailed description of services and expenditures and a description of the customer’s or eligible local government entity’s substantial contribution to the hearing or proceeding. Within 30 days after service of the request, the commission staff may file, and any other party may file, a response to the request.

(d) The commission may audit the records and books of the customer or eligible local government entity to the extent necessary to verify the basis for the award. The commission shall preserve the confidentiality of the customer’s or eligible local government entity’s records in making its audit. Within 20 days after completion of the audit, if any, the commission shall direct that an audit report shall be prepared and filed. Any other party may file a response to the audit report within 20 days thereafter.

(e) Within 75 days after the filing of a request for compensation pursuant to subdivision (c), or within 50 days after the filing of an audit report, whichever occurs later, the commission shall issue a decision that determines whether or not the customer or eligible local government entity has made a substantial contribution to the final order or decision in the hearing or proceeding. If the commission finds that the customer or eligible local government entity requesting compensation has made a substantial contribution, the commission shall describe this substantial contribution and shall determine the amount of compensation to be paid pursuant to Section 1806.

(Amended by Stats. 2016, Ch. 808, Sec. 12. (SB 512) Effective January 1, 2017.)

1806.
  

The computation of compensation awarded pursuant to Section 1804 shall take into consideration the market rates paid to persons of comparable training and experience who offer similar services. The compensation awarded may not, in any case, exceed the comparable market rate for services paid by the commission or the public utility, whichever is greater, to persons of comparable training and experience who are offering similar services.

(Amended by Stats. 1992, Ch. 942, Sec. 7. Effective January 1, 1993.)

1807.
  

(a) An award made under this article shall be paid by the public utility that is the subject of the hearing, investigation, or proceeding, as determined by the commission, within 30 days. Notwithstanding any other law, an award paid by a public utility pursuant to this article shall be allowed by the commission as an expense for the purpose of establishing rates of the public utility by way of a dollar-for-dollar adjustment to rates imposed by the commission immediately on the determination of the amount of the award, so that the amount of the award shall be fully recovered within one year from the date of the award.

(b) Due to the bankruptcy of Sacramento Natural Gas Storage, the commission’s intervenor compensation award to the Avondale Glen Elder Neighborhood Association in A.07-04-013 has been reduced to a fraction of the amount awarded. In this limited circumstance, the commission may pay to the Avondale Glen Elder Neighborhood Association the difference between the amount received from the bankruptcy court and the amount awarded by the commission by increasing the fees collected in Section 401 for the limited purpose of D.13-11-018.

(Amended by Stats. 2014, Ch. 35, Sec. 156.5. (SB 861) Effective June 20, 2014.)

1808.
  

The commission shall deny any award to any customer or eligible local government entity that attempts to delay or obstruct the orderly and timely fulfillment of the commission’s responsibilities.

(Amended by Stats. 2016, Ch. 808, Sec. 13. (SB 512) Effective January 1, 2017.)

1812.
  

A group or association that represents the interests of small agricultural customers in a proceeding and that would otherwise be eligible for an award of compensation pursuant to Section 1804 without the presence of large agricultural customers, as determined by the commission, shall not be deemed ineligible solely because that group or organization also has members who are large agricultural customers.

(Added by Stats. 1992, Ch. 942, Sec. 8. Effective January 1, 1993.)

PUCPublic Utilities Code - PUC