Amended in Senate April 6, 2016

Amended in Senate March 28, 2016

Senate BillNo. 1463


Introduced by Senator Moorlach

February 19, 2016


An act to add Section 761.2 to the Public Utilities Code, relating to electrical lines.

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST

SB 1463, as amended, Moorlach. Electrical lines: mitigation of wildfire risks.

The California Constitution establishes the Public Utilities Commission, authorizes the commission to establish rules for all public utilities, subject to control by the Legislature, and authorizes the Legislature, unlimited by the other provisions of the California Constitution, to confer additional authority and jurisdiction upon the commission that is cognate and germane to the regulation of public utilities. The Public Utilities Act provides the commission with broad authority over public utilities, including electrical corporations. Existing law establishes standards that are applicable to any person, as defined, to run, place, erect, or maintain wires or cables used to conduct electricity and requires the commission to enforce these provisions. Pursuant to its existing authority, the commission has adopted rules for the construction of electrical lines and the trimming of trees near electrical lines.

Except as specified, existing law requires any person that owns, controls, operates, or maintains any electrical transmission or distribution line upon any mountainous, forest-covered, brush-covered, or grass-covered land to maintain a clearance in all directions between all vegetation and all conductors that are carrying electric current, as prescribed.

This bill would require the commission, in consultation with the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, to prioritize areas in which communities are at high risk from the consequences of wildfires when determining areas in which it will require enhanced mitigation measures for wildfire hazards posed by overhead electrical lines and equipment.begin delete The bill would require the commission to include as being at high risk any community (1) that has experienced serious consequences from a wildfire, as specified, (2) as to which the Governor has, as a result of a wildfire, declared a state of emergency or local emergency pursuant to the California Emergency Services Act involving the community, or (3) where at least 50% of the community is included in a “very high” or “high” risk zone of the map of the Fire Hazard Severity Zones in the Local Responsibility Areas of California. The bill would require that the enhanced mitigation measures include the undergrounding of any new construction, replacement, or required relocation of transmission, subtransmission, and distribution systems, except as provided. The bill would require an electrical corporation to recover its expenses incurred in providing enhanced mitigation measures as a general expense item in its rates, and not recover its expenses solely from the ratepayers within the community where the enhanced mitigation measures are undertaken.end deletebegin insert The billend insertbegin insert, as part of any findings supporting a decision to approve the boundaries for those areas, would require the commission to describe how the commission incorporated the concerns of local governments, fire departments, or both in determining those boundaries.end insert

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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.

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Because the provisions of this bill are within the act and any violation of an action by the commission to implement its requirements would be a crime, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.

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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.

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This bill would provide that no reimbursement is required by this act for a specified reason.

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Vote: majority. Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: yes. State-mandated local program: begin deleteyes end deletebegin insertnoend insert.

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

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SECTION 1.  

Section 761.2 is added to the Public Utilities
2Code
, to read:

3

761.2.  

(a) In determining areas in which to require enhanced
4mitigation measures for wildfire hazards posed by overhead
5electrical lines and equipment, the commission, in consultation
6with the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, shall prioritize
7areas in which communities are at high risk from the consequences
8of wildfires.begin delete The commission shall include as being at high risk
9any community for which any of the following is true:end delete

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10(1) The community has experienced serious consequences from
11a wildfire, including, but not limited to, human injury or fatality
12or property damage in excess of twenty-five million dollars
13($25,000,000).

14(2) The Governor has, as a result of a wildfire, declared a state
15of emergency or local emergency involving the community
16pursuant to the California Emergency Services Act (Chapter 7
17(commencing with Section 8550) of Division 1 of Title 2 of the
18Government Code).

19(3) At least 50 percent of the community is included in a “very
20high” or “high” risk zone of the map of the Fire Hazard Severity
21Zones in the Local Responsibility Areas of California, in use as
22of January 1, 2016, prepared by the Department of Forestry and
23Fire Prevention pursuant to Chapter 6.8 (commencing with Section
2451175) of Part 1 of Division 1 of Title 5 of the Government Code.

25(b) Enhanced mitigation measures shall include the
26undergrounding of any new construction, replacement, or required
27relocation of transmission, subtransmission, and distribution
28systems unless the governing body of the community, by adoption
29of an appropriate ordinance or resolution, specifically agrees to
30other mitigation measures.

31(c) An electrical corporation shall recover its expenses incurred
32in providing enhanced mitigation measures as a general expense
33item in its rates, and shall not recover its expenses solely from the
34ratepayers within the community where the enhanced mitigation
35measures are undertaken. Undergrounding of electrical
36infrastructure, other than as part of enhanced mitigation measures,
37may continue to be funded pursuant to Electric Tariff Rule 20A
38budget allocations,. which may be freely transferred between
P4    1communities pursuant to Rule 20A.2.e, or by a replacement process
2approved by the commission.

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(b) Any findings supporting a decision to approve the boundaries
4for areas described in subdivision (a) shall describe how the
5commission incorporated the concerns of local governments, fire
6departments, or both in determining those boundaries.

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SEC. 2.  

No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to
8Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution because
9the only costs that may be incurred by a local agency or school
10district will be incurred because this act creates a new crime or
11infraction, eliminates a crime or infraction, or changes the penalty
12for a crime or infraction, within the meaning of Section 17556 of
13the Government Code, or changes the definition of a crime within
14the meaning of Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California
15Constitution.

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