CPUC Gets To Work on Utility Wildfire Mitigation Plans

On October 25, 2018, the California Public Utilities Commission (“CPUC”) initiated the Order Instituting Rulemaking to Implement Electric Utility Wildfire Mitigation Plans Pursuant to Senate Bill (“SB”) 901 (2018) (“OIR”) (Rulemaking (“R.”) 18-10-007). As described in the OIR, the scope of the proceeding is limited to the development of wildfire mitigation plans for California’s electric utilities in accordance with SB 901. Accordingly, the proceeding will implement provisions of SB 901 related to wildfire mitigation plans and provide guidance about the form and content of the initial mitigation plans, which are preliminarily scheduled to be submitted in February of 2019.

On November 14, 2018, the CPUC held the prehearing conference for R.18-10-007 and discussed next steps in the proceeding and elaborated on the preliminary scope outlined in the OIR. During the prehearing conference, CPUC President Picker and Commissioner Rechtschaffen discussed recent devastating losses resulting from wildfires and emphasized the importance of addressing and mitigating against the threat of wildfires. Given the increasing threat of wildfires in California, the CPUC is seeking to approve utility wildfire mitigation plans prior to the Summer of 2019. Given this ambitious schedule, the Commissioners and Administrative Law Judges stressed that initial wildfire mitigation plans could not address all possible threats and would continue to be improved in subsequent iterations of wildfire mitigation plans as refined through continued development of planning requirements in the proceeding.

While specific details about next steps will be provided in an upcoming scoping memorandum and ruling, it is likely that workshops will be held to further advance the proceeding. The bulk of parties favored use of workshops, which will likely be held after wildfire mitigation plans are submitted by utilities in February. As far as developing the record in the proceeding, the majority of parties at the prehearing conference favored avoiding evidentiary hearings and instead utilizing written comments to develop the record. Additionally, while de-energization is one of the items to be addressed in wildfire mitigation plans, the CPUC is deciding whether to address de-energization requirements in a separate, parallel proceeding or whether to address de-energization immediately or in a subsequent phase of R.18-10-007. Additional details about scheduling, workshops, and next steps will be outlined once the scoping memorandum is issued.

For additional information about R.18-10-007 and wildfire mitigation planning requirements, please contact Jed Gibson, Lynn Haug, or Ron Liebert.