BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



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         Date of Hearing:  June 22, 2016


                    ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON UTILITIES AND COMMERCE


                                  Mike Gatto, Chair


         SB  
         1463 (Moorlach) - As Amended April 19, 2016


         SENATE VOTE:  38-0


         SUBJECT:  Electrical lines:  mitigation of wildfire risks


         SUMMARY:  Requires the California Public Utilities Commission  
         (CPUC), in consultation with the California Department of Forestry  
         and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), to prioritize areas in which  
         communities are at high risk from the consequences of wildfire,  
         and develop a definition of "enhanced mitigation measures" when  
         determining areas susceptible to wildfires hazards posed by  
         overhead electrical lines and equipment.  Specifically, this bill:  
          


         1)Requires the CPUC, in consultation with CAL FIRE, in determining  
           areas in which to require enhanced mitigation measures for  
           wildfire hazards posed by overhead electrical lines and  
           equipment, to prioritize areas in which communities are at high  
           risk from the consequences of wildfires.
         2)Requires the CPUC to develop a definition of "enhanced  
           mitigation measures" in Rulemaking 15-05-006 (Filed May 7,  
           2015), Order Instituting Rulemaking to Develop and Adopt  
           Fire-Threat Maps and Fire-Safety Regulations, or in another  
           appropriate proceeding.








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         3)Requires any findings supporting a decision to approve the  
           boundaries for specified areas to describe how the CPUC  
           incorporated the concerns of local governments, fire  
           departments, or both in determining those boundaries. 


         EXISTING LAW:   


         1)Requires the CPUC to develop formal procedures to consider  
           safety in a rate case application by an electrical corporation  
           or gas corporation. Requires the procedures to include a means  
           by which safety information acquired by the CPUC through  
           monitoring, data tracking and analysis, accident investigations,  
           and audits of an applicant's safety programs may inform the  
           CPUC's consideration of the application.  (Public Utilities Code  
           Section 750)


         2)Establishes the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones in order  
           classify lands in the state in accordance with whether a very  
           high fire hazard is present so that public officials are able to  
           identify measures that will retard the rate of spread, and  
           reduce the potential intensity, of uncontrolled fires that  
           threaten to destroy resources, life, or property, and to require  
           that those measures be taken.  (Government Code Section 51175 et  
           seq.)


         3)Establishes the California Emergency Services Act and provides  
           that the state recognizes its 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, and generally to  
           protect the health and safety and preserve the lives and  
           property of the people of the state.  (Government Code Section  
           8550 et seq.)








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         4)Specifies the intent of the Legislature that the CPUC assess the  
           consequences of its decisions, including economic effects, and  
           assess and mitigate the impacts of its decision on customer,  
           public, and employee safety, as part of each ratemaking,  
           rulemaking, or other proceeding, and that this be accomplished  
           using existing resources and within existing CPUC structures.   
           Requires the CPUC to take all necessary and appropriate actions  
           to assess the economic effects of its decisions and to assess  
           and mitigate the impacts of its decisions on customer, public,  
           and employee safety.  (Public Utilities Code Section 321.1)


         FISCAL EFFECT:  Unkown.


         COMMENTS:  


         1)Author's Statement:  "On May 26, 2016, the CPUC approved 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 Fire Hazard Severity Zone on the CAL FIRE 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."
         2)Background:  Every year, high temperatures fuel wildfires across  
           the state. Such wildfires are perpetuated due to strong winds  
           and difficult terrain, and pose a danger to people and property  
           in high wildfire areas.  For example, in 2007 wildfires spread  
           throughout Southern California killing 17 people, destroying  
           thousands of homes, and burning more than 780 square miles.   








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           Wildfires can be caused by many factors, such as high  
           temperature, excess vegetation, strong winds, arson, accidents,  
           etc. However, several of the worst wildfires in the state were  
           caused by power lines, including the Grass Valley Fire, the  
           Malibu Canyon Fire, the Rice Fire, the Sedgewick Fire, and the  
           Witch Fire.  These five wildfires burned over 334 square miles  
           of terrain. 
           In response to the wildfires, in 2008 the CPUC initiated a  
           rulemaking (R. 08-11-005) to consider and adopt regulations to  
           reduce the fire hazards associated with overhead power lines and  
           aerial communication facilities in close proximity to power  
           lines.  Many of the fire-safety regulation adopted in the  
           rulemaking applied to high fire-threat areas, which are areas  
           that had an elevated risk of power-line fires initiating and  
           spreading rapidly.  As part of the rulemaking, CAL FIRE was  
           tasked with developing a statewide fire-threat map that would  
           show in great detail the risk of power-line fires occurring and  
           spreading rapidly throughout the state. 


           The CAL FIRE maps would be used to established new High  
           Fire-Threat District boundaries where stronger fire-safety  
           regulations adopted in the rulemaking would apply.  These  
           stronger regulations include, rules requiring utilities to  
           design, construct, and maintain their facilities for known local  
           conditions, minimum and increased frequencies for patrol  
           inspections, expanded vegetation clearance requirements, and  
           requirements on investor owned utilities in Southern California  
           to prepare and submit plants to reduce power-line fires during  
           extreme fire weather.  


         3)Rulemaking 15-05-006:  In May 2015, the CPUC closed Rulemaking  
           08-11-005 and opened a successor rulemaking (R. 15-05-006).  The  
           focus of R.15-05-006 is to develop and adopt a Fire Map to  
           depict the physical and environmental conditions associated with  
           an elevated potential for utility associated wildfires and to  
           delineate the boundaries of a new High Fire-Threat District  
           where stronger fire safety regulations are adopted.  CAL FIRE  








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           was tasked to develop Fire Map 1 which is to be used as the  
           foundation for the development of Fire Map 2 to delineate  
           High-Fire Threat District boundaries. 
           In April 2016, CAL FIRE completed its development of Fire Map 1.  
            Fire Map 1 was specifically designed to identify areas where  
           environmental conditions posted an elevated hazard for the  
           ignition and rapid spread of power-line fires.  With the  
           exception of the City of Laguna Beach, all parties supported the  
           adoption of Fire Map 1.  CAL FIRE and relevant parties agreed to  
           address several issues as they develop Fire Map 2, including  
           examining vegetation issues in low wind areas, include utility  
           knowledge of local conditions, and investigate whether wind  
           should be a factor in the definition of High Fire Threat  
           Districts.


         4)City of Laguna Beach:  According to the City of Laguna Beach,  
           the City has been plagued by utility caused fires for years.  
           This includes five recent fires that involved power-line  
           facilities, including a 15 acre fire in July 2015 caused by  
           downed power lines.  The City expressed concerns with Fire Map 1  
           because, they argue, contrary to experience and CAL FIRE  
           mapping, the City is depicted on Fire Map 1 in a low fire-hazard  
           area where, in fact, the City faces very high fire-risk.  The  
           City argues that Fire Map 1 depicts fire hazard using only a  
           limited snap shot of the variables that should be considered in  
           analysis of utility caused wildfires. 
           This bill requires the CPUC, in consultation with CAL FIRE, in  
           R.15-05-006, or another appropriate proceeding to prioritize  
           areas in which communities are at high risk from the  
           consequences of wildfires and develop a definition of "enhanced  
           mitigation measures."  This bill also requires any findings  
           supporting a decision to approve the boundaries for specified  
           areas to describe how the CPUC incorporated the concerns of  
           local governments, fire departments, or both in determining  
           those boundaries. 


            The author may wish to consider an amendment to better align the  








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           bill with R.15-05-006 by specifying that the CPUC shall  
           prioritize those communities with additional factors and  
           conditions that affect fire hazards associated with overhead  
           utility facilities generally and at specific locations.   


          5)Development of Fire Map 2: Although power-line fires caused by  
           power-lines in developed areas under fire-weather conditions can  
           pose a grave risk to communities, the most catastrophic  
           power-line fires in California history were caused in less  
           developed areas and grew under several fire-weather conditions  
           such as strong winds, low humidity, and elevated temperatures.   
           The primary goal of the proceeding is to ensure that utility  
           fires do not become mega fires, by addressing areas with  
           abundant fuels and severe fire weather. Fire Map 1 was developed  
           to serve as a foundation for developing Fire Map 2. 
           The parties agreed that the concerns expressed by the City of  
           Laguna Beach can be addressed during the development of Map 2,  
           including adjustments to reflect historical fires and local  
           knowledge. In addition, the Fire Map 1 proposed decision  
           encouraged Southern California Edison to further engage with the  
           City of Laguna Beach to explain fire-safety regulation and to  
           discuss what additional measures may be warranted for the Laguna  
           Beach Area. 


         6)Arguments in Support:  According to the City of Laguna Beach,  
           the sponsor of the bill, "The City of Laguna Beach has been  
           plagued by well-documented, utility-caused fires for years and  
           has consequently undertaken efforts to protect its residents and  
           businesses through maximizing the use of underground  
           utility-related infrastructure to avoid future fire-related  
           disasters [?]  The City is concerned that Fire Map 1 may be used  
           by utilities to justify providing a less-safe level of service  
           than would otherwise be required if the City remained in a high  
           risk zone.  It is critical that as this map is developed,  
           appropriate factors are taken into consideration to ensure that  
           a high level of safety is maintained in our communities."
         7)Arguments in Opposition:  According to the California Cable and  








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           Telecommunications Association, "This bill fails to clearly  
           limit the enhanced mitigation measures to potential 'wildfires'  
           resulting from overhead electrical lines or equipment.  This  
           bill would result in prohibitive new costs and impede the  
           deployment of broadband, create new safety risks in the local  
           communities, and unfairly shift costs to all electric service  
           ratepayers without providing any greater protection from  
           wildfires."


         8)Suggested Amendment:




           761.2. (a) In determining areas in which to require enhanced  
           mitigation measures for wildfire hazards posed by overhead  
           electrical lines and equipment, the commission, in consultation  
           with the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, shall  
           prioritize areas in which communities  are at high risk from the  
           consequences of wildfires   have additional factors and conditions  
           that affect fire hazards associated with overhead utility  
           facilities generally and at specific locations. Consistent with  
           Section 321.1 of this chapter, t   T  he commission shall develop a  
           definition of "enhanced mitigation measures" for purposes of  
           this subdivision in Rulemaking 15-05-006 (Filed May 7, 2015),  
           Order Instituting Rulemaking to Develop and Adopt Fire-Threat  
           Maps and Fire-Safety Regulations, or in another appropriate  
           proceeding.


         9)Related Legislation:  
           SB 1028 (Hill) of 2016:  Requires CPUC regulated utilities to  
           file wildfire mitigation plans and requires the CPUC to vote to  
           approve and audit those plans.  Requires publicly-owned  
           utilities to file wildfire mitigation plans with their governing  
           boards.  Pending in Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee.










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         REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION:


         Support


         City of Laguna Beach  (Sponsor)


         City of Aliso Viejo


         City of Irvine


         City of Malibu


         Orange County Fire Chiefs Association


         Rural County Representatives of California




         Opposition


         California Cable and Telecommunications Association




         Analysis Prepared by:Edmond Cheung / U. & C. / (916)  
         319-2083











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