BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    






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          |SENATE RULES COMMITTEE            |                       SB 1463|
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                                   THIRD READING 


          Bill No:  SB 1463
          Author:   Moorlach (R), et al.
          Amended:  4/19/16  
          Vote:     21 

           SENATE ENERGY, U. & C. COMMITTEE:  9-0, 4/5/16
           AYES:  Hueso, Morrell, Cannella, Hertzberg, Hill, Lara, Leyva,  
            McGuire, Pavley
           NO VOTE RECORDED:  Gaines, Wolk

           SENATE NATURAL RES. & WATER COMMITTEE:  9-0, 4/12/16
           AYES:  Pavley, Stone, Allen, Hertzberg, Hueso, Jackson,  
            Monning, Vidak, Wolk

           SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE:  7-0, 5/27/16
           AYES:  Lara, Bates, Beall, Hill, McGuire, Mendoza, Nielsen

           SUBJECT:   Electrical lines:  mitigation of wildfire risks


          SOURCE:    City of Laguna Beach

          DIGEST:   This bill requires the California Public Utilities  
          Commission (CPUC), in consultation with the Department of  
          Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), to prioritize areas in  
          which communities are at high risk from the consequences of  
          wildfires in order to determine areas in which to require  
          enhanced mitigation measures for wildfire hazards posed by  
          overhead electrical lines and equipment. This bill also requires  
          the CPUC to define "enhanced mitigation measures" and to  
          describe how the agency incorporated the concerns of local  
          governments and/or fire departments in determining the areas.









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          ANALYSIS:  


          Existing law:


          1)Provides that the 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 with whether 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)Establishes the California Emergency Services Act and 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)


          This bill:


          1)Requires CPUC, in consultation with CAL FIRE, to prioritize  
            areas in which communities are at high risk from the  
            consequences of wildfires when determining areas in which to  
            require enhanced mitigation measures for wildfire hazards  
            posed by overhead electrical lines and equipment.








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          2)Requires the CPUC to develop a definition of "enhanced  
            mitigation measures" for purposes of its fire-threat maps and  
            fire-safety regulations as included in Rulemaking 15-05-006. 


          3)Requires the CPUC to include a description of how the agency  
            incorporated the concerns of local governments and/or fire  
            departments in its findings supporting a decision to approve  
            the boundaries for the communities prioritized as high risk  
            from the consequences of wildfires.


          Background


          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. 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.


          CPUC efforts to address wildfires.  In October of 2007, a series  
          of large wildfires ignited and burned hundreds of thousands of  
          acres in several counties in Southern California. The fires  
          displaced nearly one million residents, destroyed thousands of  
          homes, and took the lives of 10 people and an additional seven  
          who died from evacuating or from fire related causes.  These  







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          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 open 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. 


          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. 









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          Related Legislation


          SB 1028 (Hill, 2016) requires CPUC-regulated utilities to file  
          wildfire mitigation plans and requires the CPUC to vote to  
          approve and audit those plans. The bill also requires  
          publicly-owned utilities to file wildfire mitigation plans with  
          their governing boards.  The bill is scheduled to be heard in  
          the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee.




          FISCAL EFFECT:   Appropriation:    No          Fiscal  
          Com.:YesLocal:   No

          According to the Senate Appropriations Committee:


           A total of $582,000 (State Responsibility Area fee or General  
            Fund) over two years for CAL FIRE to assess map criteria,  
            oversee Fire Threat Map revision, and validate the map against  
            known electrical utility fires. 


           Minor costs to the CPUC (Public Utilities Commission Utilities  
            Reimbursement Account) for initial prioritization efforts in  
            the existing proceeding.


          SUPPORT:   (Verified5/27/16)


          City of Laguna Beach (source)
          Rural County Representatives of California


          OPPOSITION:   (Verified5/27/16)


          California Cable & Telecommunications Association


          ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT:     According to the City of Laguna Beach,  







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          SB 1463 instructs the CPUC on best use of fire hazard  
          information in developing future heightened utility fire  
          mitigation standards for at-risk communities throughout the  
          state.  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.  The City is  
          concerned that the map may be used by utilities to justify  
          providing a less-safe level of service than would otherwise be  
          requires if the City remained in a high risk zone.  SB 1463  
          would resolve this issue by requiring the CPUC to take into  
          consideration areas in which communities are at risk from the  
          consequences of wildfires not just those areas where certain  
          environmental hazards are present.


          ARGUMENTS IN OPPOSITION:     The California Cable &  
          Telecommunications Association expresses opposition to this  
          bill's requirements to underground electrical lines and or  
          equipment because it would increase costs to the communications  
          industry, create new safety risks and be unfair to all  
          ratepayers.  The opponent argue that while electric utility  
          corporations would be reimbursed for the costs of  
          undergrounding, communications companies are not reimbursed and  
          could be required to cover the entire costs of undergrounding  
          facilities - including non-cable utility facilities - where  
          cable seeks to attach under the current right-of-way access  
          rules.  Such an obligation would increase the cost of broadband  
          deployment and impeded investment in the impacted areas. They  
          also argue that repair times for undergrounded infrastructure  
          can take weeks to find, excavate, then fix, compared to an  
          overhead line where the repair may be more readily apparent.



          Prepared by:Nidia Bautista / E., U., & C. / (916) 651-4107
          5/28/16 17:08:43


                                   ****  END  ****


          









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