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Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMFs)  


        In response to public concern about Electric and Magnetic Fields and a lack of scientific evidence which either confirmed or denied a causal link between EMFs and health effects, the Commission began Investigation I.91-01-012. The purpose of the investigation which opened on January 15, 1991 was to determine the Commission's role in mitigating health effects, if any, of EMFs created by electric utility power lines and by cellular radiotelephone facilities.   
        By this investigation, all interested parties were notified that the Commission would take appropriate action on EMFs in response to a conclusion, based on scientific evidence, which indicates that a health hazard actually exists, and that a clear cause and effect relationship between utility property or operations and public health is established.  
       At the issuance of this investigation, the scientific community had not yet isolated the impact, if any, of utility-related exposures on public health.  In the absence of a final resolution of the question of such impact, other jurisdictions and agencies have concluded that the best response to EMFs is to avoid unnecessary new exposure to EMFs if such avoidance can be achieved at a cost which is reasonable in light of the risk identified.  Thus, if at a future time a health risk is determined to exist, government will have acted responsibly and rationally to avoid unnecessary exposure to that risk.  
       Interested parties were invited to comment on specific EMF issues identified in the investigation.  In response to this invitation, comments were received from twenty-three independent organizations and individuals.  
       The commenters provided substantial variation in their EMF concerns, opinions, and recommendations.  However, there was a consensus that EMF issues involving electric utilities and telecommunications utilities should be addressed in separate proceedings.  There was also a consensus that a working group of interested parties should be established to define near-term research objectives and to develop interim procedures to guide the electric utilities in educating their customers, in reducing EMF measurement levels, and in responding to potential health concerns.  
       Consistent with the consensus expressed in the comments, the investigation was bifurcated, with the power frequency phase proceeding first.  Respondent electric utilities identified in the investigation were Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), Pacific Power and Light Company, San Diego Gas and Electric Company (SDG&E), Sierra Pacific Power Company, and Southern California Edison Company (Edison).  Of the named respondents, only PG&E, SDG&E, and Edison actively participated in this investigation.  
       Stemming from the Investigation (I.91-01-012) and subsequent meetings  of the EMF working group, the Commission adopted Decision D.93-11-013 which takes seven interim steps to address EMFs related to electric utility facilities and power lines.  The Decision also designates the California Department of Health Services (DHS) as a program manager for EMF research and education programs. 
        Decision 95-11-017 addresses the cellular phase of the Commission's EMF investigation which considers the Commission's role in mitigating health effects, if any, of Radio Frequency (RF) radiation generated by cellular utilities within the Commission's jurisdiction.  It is noted in this decision that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has exercised preemptive authority over states with regards to cellular handsets and utilities.  For issues regarding the siting of wireless telecommunications facilties, please see the FCC's  Wireless Telecommunications Bureau.  
         On May 12, 1997, the California Department of Health Services (DHS) filed a petition to modify D.93-11-013, pursuant to Rule 47 of the Commission's Rules of Practice and Procedure.  On December 3, 1997, the Commission issued Decision 97-12-027 in response to the petition.

For more information about the technical and health-related aspects of EMFs, visit the Department of Health Services EMF Web Site or contact:


For more information about the CPUC's EMF Policy, contact Wendy Maria Phelps, e-mail:


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