BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                    SB 1463


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          Date of Hearing: June 27, 2016  


                       ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES


                                 Das Williams, 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.  


          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.  
          2)Establishes the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones in order  








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            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.  


          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 lives and property  
            of the people of the state.  



          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.  


          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.









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          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.


          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. 


          FISCAL EFFECT:  According to the Senate Appropriations  
          Committee:


          1)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. 



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



          COMMENTS:  


          1)Author's Statement: 



          On May 26, 2016, the CPUC approved the final version of  








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          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.  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 5 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  








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            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 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.










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          4)City of Laguna Beach.  According to the City of Laguna Beach  
            (City), the City has been plagued by utility-caused fires for  
            years.  This includes 5 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 were placed in a low-fire hazard category.  The  
            City argues that designation ignored past utility fires that  
            have occurred in the city and other CAL FIRE maps.  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 and that the City  
            should be designation high-fire hazard. 
            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. 


          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 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  








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            Laguna Beach to explain fire-safety regulations and to discuss  
            what additional measures may be warranted for the Laguna Beach  
            Area. 


          6)Double referral and amendments.  This bill was heard in the  
            Utilities and Commerce Committee on June 22, and passed with a  
            15-0 vote.  Due to timing, amendments agreed to in the  
            Utilities and Commerce Committee will be adopted in this  
            committee.  The amendments require prioritization of  
            communities that have additional factors and conditions that  
            affect fire hazards associated with overhead utility  
            facilities.  Please see the Utilities and Commerce Committee  
            analysis for further information.



          7)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.  This is awaiting hearing in the Assembly  
            Appropriations Committee.
            
          REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION:




          Support


          City of Laguna Beach  (Sponsor)










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          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:Michael Jarred / NAT. RES. / (916)  
          319-2092