California Commission Opens SB 901 Rulemaking to Guide Development of Utility Wildfire Mitigation Plans

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has opened Rulemaking 18-10-007 to begin implementation of Senate Bill 901 by developing utility wildfire mitigation plans. SB 901 amended the California Public Utilities Code to require that each investor-owned electric utility submit an annual wildfire mitigation plan that includes detailed requirements, including:

  • Responsibilities of persons responsible for executing the plan;
  • Objectives of the plan;
  • Description of preventative strategies and programs to be adopted by the utility to minimize risk of catastrophic fires, including consideration of climate change risks;
  • Evaluation metrics and assumptions;
  • Protocols for disabling reclosers and deenergizing portions of the electrical distribution system that consider public safety impacts, protocols for mitigation of safety impacts, and procedures for notifying customers and prioritizing communications;
  • Plans for vegetation management;
  • Plans for electric infrastructure inspections;
  • Risk assessment and prioritization;
  • System hardening and modernization plans;
  • Restoration plan;
  • Protocols for customer support during and after wildfires.

Citing the short 3-month timeline for completion of the initial wildfire mitigation plans, the CPUC has established an accelerated schedule for participation by interested parties. Comments on the OIR are due Monday, November 5. A prehearing conference is scheduled for Wednesday, November 14. The CPUC will issue a scoping memo with instructions for initial plans in December, 2018, and accept comments on the instructions 10 days later. Wildfire mitigation plans will be filed in February 2019, and parties will have an opportunity to file comments and reply comments on the plans.

The Commission will use this proceeding as the vehicle for the development and refinement of guidance for the content of future wildfire mitigation plans. Other issues addressed in SB 901, including utility cost recovery, will be implemented in other proceedings and are not within the scope of this rulemaking.

The issues above have implications for a broad range of stakeholders, including utilities, community choice aggregators, customers (particularly in high fire-risk areas), investors, first responders, water and telecommunication utilities, hospitals and public agencies. Our attorneys are actively following this and related wildfire proceedings. For more information, contact Lynn Haug, Ron Liebert, or Samantha Neumyer.