BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



          SENATE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES AND WATER
                             Senator Fran Pavley, Chair
                                2015 - 2016  Regular 

          Bill No:            SB 1463         Hearing Date:    April 12,  
          2016
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          |Author:    |Moorlach               |           |                 |
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          |Version:   |April 6, 2016    Amended                             |
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          |Urgency:   |No                     |Fiscal:    |Yes              |
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          |Consultant:|William Craven                                       |
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              Subject:  Electrical lines: mitigation of wildfire risks

          BACKGROUND AND EXISTING LAW
           
          1. Provides that the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC)  
          has regulatory authority over public utilities, including  
          electric corporations. (California Constitution, Article 3 and  
          4) 

          2. Requires the CPUC to develop formal procedures to incorporate  
          safety in a rate case application by an electrical corporation  
          or gas corporations. (Public Utilities Code 750) 

          3. Establishes the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones in order  
          to classify lands in the state where a very high fire hazard is  
          present so that public officials are able to identify and adopt  
          measures to mitigate against fire risk. (Government Code 51175)  


          4. Government Code Section 51177 requires the Director of the  
          Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to evaluate fire  
          hazard severity in local responsibility areas and to make a  
          recommendation to the local jurisdiction where very high Fire  
          Hazard Severity Zones exist.  The Government Code then provides  
          direction for the local jurisdiction to take appropriate action.  
          Such designations are not required to be considered by the CPUC.  


          5. Establishes the California Emergency Services Act and  






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          provides that the state is recognized with responsibility to  
          mitigate the effects of natural, manmade, or war-caused  
          emergencies that result in conditions of disaster or in extreme  
          peril to life, property, and the resources of the state,  
          generally to protect the health and safety and preserve the  
          lives and property of the people of the state. Confers on the  
          Governor to provide state assistance and emergency programs.  
          (Government Code 8550)

          CPUC efforts to address wildfires. As set forth by the Senate  
          Energy and Utilities Committee which heard this bill on April 5,  
          a series of large wildfires ignited and burned hundreds of  
          thousands of acres in several counties in Southern California in  
          2007. The fires displaced nearly one million residents,  
          destroyed thousands of homes, and took the lives of ten people  
          and an additional seven who died from evacuating or from fire  
          related causes. These fires included the Witch Fire, one of the  
          nation's most damaging, which was ignited by power lines. After  
          the 2007 fires ravaged several areas of the state, in 2008, the  
          CPUC initiated rulemaking proceeding to address fires related to  
          utility poles. The CPUC's efforts have resulted in additional  
          requirements on utilities to reduce the likelihood of fires  
          started by or threatening utility facilities, including improved  
          vegetation management, as well as, requiring the utilities to  
          develop electric utility fire prevention plans. The first phase  
          also adopted fire hazard maps of high-risk areas in Southern  
          California. In May 2015, the CPUC opened a new rulemaking  
          proceeding to develop and adopt fire-threat maps and fire-safety  
          regulations (R. 15-05-006). The CPUC tasked CAL FIRE to oversee  
          and select outside experts to develop a more refined statewide  
          fire hazard map. As noted in the Scoping Memo, the fire-threat  
          map will be based on approximately 150 terabytes of fire-weather  
          data, which will be used to run millions of fire simulations to  
          build a high resolution, statewide fire-treat map. The CPUC and  
          CAL FIRE have conducted workshops to solicit feedback on the  
          draft map. After a couple of delays, a final map was issued on  
          February 12, 2016. Additionally, the CPUC has announced a safety  
          en banc related to utility pole safety on April 28, 2016 in Los  
          Angeles. The agenda for the en banc includes representatives  
          from CAL FIRE, electric utilities, communications utilities and  
          providers and other stakeholders. 


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          Laguna's experience with wildfire. On Friday, July 3, 2015, a  
          portion of Laguna Canyon area experienced a fire when falling  
          trees hit a power line on Arroyo Drive which sparked a fire on a  
          brush covered hillside along Laguna Canyon Road. With light  
          winds and air support, the fire was knocked down after burning  
          about 15 acres. Five aircraft and 150 firefighters were  
          deployed. Based on a local news story, the brush fire prompted  
          the Mayor to call for an all-out effort to underground utilities  
          citywide. According to the same Laguna Beach Indy newspaper  
          story, residents, motivated by improving views and lowering fire  
          risk, themselves have footed the bill to bury utility lines in  
          their own neighborhoods in 40 percent of the city, the public  
          works department estimates. According to a city statement, since  
          2007, at least four fires have been attributed to above-ground  
          electric utilities and been involved in 46 accidents along  
          Laguna Canyon Road, the city statement says. Laguna Beach has  
          also experienced one of the nation's costliest fires. In 1993 an  
          arsonist-caused fire burned 16,000 acres and destroyed or  
          severely damaged over 400 homes and caused $528 million dollars  
          in damage. 

          Mapping fire hazard and risk. The City of Laguna Beach submitted  
          comments into the proceeding to express the city's objections to  
          the map, particularly because the map places the city under the  
          lowest margins of the Utility Fire Threat index. The City of  
          Laguna Beach stated that the map has limitations and correcting  
          what appears to be the exclusion of key criteria that  
          artificially eliminates developed communities from high wildfire  
          risk categories, including housing density and local fire  
          history. The City points to a 2008 CAL FIRE Fire Hazard Severity  
          Zone Development map which designates 90 percent of the City in  
          a very high fire hazard severity zone. They also submitted  
          comments to request the CPUC explain how the map will be used  
          prior to adoption, so as to ensure utilities won't point to the  
          map and argued that communities, such as Laguna Beach, are not  
          at risk for wildfire. 

          As noted in the CPUC Scoping Memo after the initial map was  
          developed for Southern California, the task of developing a  
          state-of-the science fire-threat map has proven to be a  
          difficult challenge. 


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          PROPOSED LAW
          As amended in Senate Energy and Utilities, this bill states that  
          in determining areas in which to require enhanced mitigation  
          measures for wildfire hazards posed by overhead electrical lines  
          and equipment, the PUC in consultation with the California  
          Department of Forestry and Fire Protection shall prioritize  
          areas in which communities are at risk from the consequences of  
          wildfire. Additionally, the bill provides that the PUC, in any  
          findings supporting a decision to approve the boundaries for  
          areas at risk from wildfire, shall describe how the PUC  
          incorporated the concerns of local governments, fire  
          departments, or both, in determining those boundaries. 

          ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT
          According to the author, on February 2, 2016, the CPUC served  
          the final version of Fire Map 1.  The City of Laguna Beach was  
          placed within the low-risk margins of the Utility Fire Threat  
          Index. However, 90% of the City of Laguna Beach falls within a  
          Very High Severity Zone on the CalFIRE Fire Resources and  
          Assessment Program (FRAP) map which takes into account variables  
          such as fire history, a measure that evaluates the cost and  
          consequence of fire and housing and population density. These  
          factors were left out of Fire Map 1's development. It is  
          essential that the Public Utilities Commission outline how Fire  
          Map 2 will be created by taking into account the concerns of  
          local governments and fire departments.

          Laguna Beach is not alone with these wildfire problems or  
          dealing with the consequences of loss of life, property damage,  
          impacts on ecosystems, etc., when they savage their community.  
          There are many areas across the state which are also dealing  
          with these significant and persistent fire risks. If one of the  
          paramount responsibilities of government is to provide for  
          public safety, then the CPUC needs to properly consider their  
          issues and concerns when in consideration of developing future  
          electric line standards and mitigations.

          The City of Laguna Beach, as the sponsor, believes that the bill  

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          will decrease the fire risk in the city and provide a check on  
          the maps developed by the PUC that may underestimate fire risk  
          from utility lines and poles. 

          The Rural County Representatives of California state that the  
          bill will help mitigate and prevent wildfires ignited by  
          electrical lines and equipment in those areas with exceptionally  
          high rates of tree mortality. 


          ARGUMENTS IN OPPOSITION
          None received. 

          COMMENTS
          The only unresolved issue remaining after the Senate Energy  
          Committee amendments is to direct the PUC to develop a  
          definition of "enhanced mitigation measures" which is the first  
          suggested amendment. 

          As a technical suggestion, the author may want to wordsmith the  
          phrase "incorporated the concerns of local governments, fire  
          departments, or both" into something like "incorporated the  
          comments of the public including but not limited to local  
          governments and fire departments" if he is so inclined and  
          subject to the approval of the Senate Energy Committee. 

          Staff is informed that the one organization in opposition has  
          removed its opposition at the Senate Energy and Utilities  
          Committee meeting. 

          
          SUGGESTED AMENDMENTS 
          
          AMENDMENT 1
               The commission, in its rulemaking in R. 15-05-006, or where  
               appropriate, shall develop a definition of "enhanced  
               mitigation measures" for purposes of this subdivision. 

               
          SUPPORT
          City of Laguna Beach 
          Rural County Representatives of California

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          OPPOSITION
          None Received

          
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