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Ancestral Land Could Soon Be Returned to Maidu in Long-Anticipated Conservation Recommendation

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By CPUC Commissioner Clifford Rechtschaffen

The California Public Utilities Commission works on a variety of complex issues, but few people may know we have been playing an important role in helping a group of Maidu Indians position themselves to soon regain ownership of some of the tribe's ancestral homeland in Plumas County.

Part of a much larger tract of Pacific Gas & Electric land-140,000 acres in all-this parcel that includes 2,325 acres had been designated for conservation under the 2003 bankruptcy agreement between the utility and the CPUC.

For more than a decade, a group of local Maidu Indians has been working to regain ownership of the gorgeous meadow around scenic Lake Almanor that the Maidu refer to as Tasmam Koyom.

Now, following a unanimous recommendation by the Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council, the non-profit land-conservation entity established in the bankruptcy agreement, Maidu descendants are  close to getting back the land that means so much to them.

There are additional regulatory hurdles to clear before the recommendation comes up for consideration by the full CPUC, but members of the tribe are predictably excited.

Lorena Gorbet, a Maidu Indian who's been working on the issue for years, was quoted in a recent article about the land in the Sacramento Bee. "At first it was just getting everybody to work together," she said. "They were driven by the potential of owning the land of their ancestors as well as a vision of managing it to heal and nourish the places they had lost: restoring angelica to meadows; returning oak savannahs to hillsides; even bringing back the snapping turtles and salmon that frequent their songs and stories. They believed restoring the land would restore their culture and their people."

If the transfer does become final in the coming months, it would mark the first time ancestral lands in California have been returned to a Native American tribe not recognized by the federal government.  It would also, I believe, reflect this Commission's responsiveness in considering the concerns of Native Americans in our state.

We now conduct regular and ongoing outreach to Native American tribes as part of the Commission's Tribal Consultation Policy we approved in April. With that approval, Stephanie Green of the CPUC's News and Outreach office, was designated as the Commission's official Tribal Liaison.

The consultation policy calls for the Commission to: 

· Encourage and facilitate tribal government participation in CPUC proceedings;
· Give meaningful consideration to tribal interests in issues within the CPUC's jurisdiction;
· Encourage and facilitate tribal government participation in CPUC-approved utility programs;
· Protect tribal cultural resources;
· Encourage investments by tribal governments and tribal members in onsite renewable energy generation, energy efficiency; low carbon transportation and energy storage.

Stay tuned to this space and I will make sure to post an update once a final determination has been reached.

CPUC Adopts Citation Program to Enforce Compliance by Telecommunications Carriers

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By Commissioner Clifford Rechtschaffen

As part of the California Public Utilities Commission's (CPUC) ongoing efforts to respond more quickly and efficiently to non-compliance in the industries we regulate, today we adopted a citation program that will allow CPUC staff to issue citations to telecommunications carriers for violations of rules and regulations. The program specifies a citation procedure to be followed by our staff, spells out a list of specific violations and corresponding penalties, and sets out an appeal process.

The existing process requires issuance of a CPUC Resolution, followed by a formal vote from the Commissioners to impose penalties for carrier non-compliance. The new citation program will allow CPUC staff to take immediate action to correct noncompliance.

Under the new rules, carriers will have the opportunity to correct or contest any staff findings of non-compliance, and advise staff of any errors in their findings. The citation program does not prevent the CPUC from taking other remedial measures, including but not limited to the revocation of a carrier's operating authority and/or registration license. Penalties imposed on carriers cannot be recovered from customers. The citation program covers violations such as failure to obtain authority to operate in California, to submit required filings to the CPUC, and to report and remit surcharge payments as directed by the CPUC. 

This new citation program for telecommunications carriers closely follows existing citation programs applicable to other industries regulated by the CPUC, including the gas and electric industries, household goods movers, charter party carriers, and passenger stage corporations. In 2011, the CPUC created a citation process authorizing staff to impose fines on natural gas companies when gas safety rules are violated. In 2014, an electric safety citation program was created, permitting CPUC staff to levy fines on electric corporations for violating state rules and regulations.

The resolution (T-17601) proposing the new citation program is at: http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PublishedDocs/Published/G000/M216/K331/216331869.PDF.

CPUC Rejects Utility Request to Build New Natural Gas Pipeline in San Diego

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Today we denied the request of San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) and Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) to build a new natural gas transmission pipeline, finding it is not needed for safety or reliability.  The pipeline would have been named Line 3602.

The utilities were seeking CPUC approval to build a 47-mile long, 36-inch diameter natural gas transmission pipeline from Rainbow Station to Miramar, at a loaded cost of $639 million. The pipeline would have replaced a 16-inch natural gas transmission pipeline, Line 1600, which presently provides service from Rainbow Station to Miramar.  

The CPUC determined that the utilities' most recent natural gas supply forecast and the CPUC's reliability standard for gas planning do not demonstrate that there is a need for the proposed pipeline.

The CPUC ordered the utilities to pursue options for supply that may be needed in smaller amounts and for shorter periods of time in the coming years.  

The CPUC also ordered the utilities to ensure the safety of Line 1600 by proceeding with implementing all state laws and rules that apply to natural gas transmission pipelines.

The proposal vote on in proceeding A.15-09-013 is available at http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PublishedDocs/Published/G000/M216/K622/216622543.PDF.

CPUC Issues Staff Report on Wireline Phone Service Quality for 2014-2016

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In our continual efforts to assure access to safe and reliable utility service, we have issued a staff report that analyzes telecommunication carrier service quality measurements and reporting standards.

The staff report, titled, California Wireline Telephone Service Quality Pursuant to General Orders 133-C and 133-D Calendar Years 2014 through 2016, analyzes quarterly service quality data reported by California telephone service providers for 2014 through 2016 and establishes a baseline for the revised service quality measurements going forward in light of General Order 133-D fines.  Staff from the CPUC's Communications Division examined five measures for meeting minimum response times by carriers for their installation commitments, customer trouble reporting, out of service repairs, and answer times by customer call center representatives.

CPUC staff concluded that all carriers met three of the requirements; however, most consistently failed to meet the Out of Service Repair Interval 90% minimum.  Recommendations to improve reporting data and remediate carriers' performance include revising the General Order's corrective action plans and considering a Rulemaking in relation to the results of the network examination of AT&T California and Frontier California ordered in CPUC Decision 13-02-023.

Future evaluation of post-2016 data should indicate the effectiveness of General Order 133-D revisions with the CPUC's goal to improve carrier service quality performance that ensures safe and reliable services for all residential, business, and public safety customers. 

Commissioner Blog: Accelerating Transportation Electrification in California

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By CPUC Commissioner Carla J. Peterman


I'm proud of the historic action taken by the CPUC on May 31, 2018, when we authorized California's three investor-owned utilities to spend more than $760 million to accelerate transportation electrification in our state.

With earlier actions taken by the CPUC and other programs advanced by California, our state is at the forefront of electrification efforts, investing more than any other place in the nation.

Thanks to strong leadership from the Governor and Legislature, a supportive public, and hard work by many, we are proving it's possible to fight climate change by transitioning from fossil fuels and grow our economy at the same time. 

As Mary Nichols, Chair of the California Air Resources Board (CARB), said after our unanimous vote: "This action by the CPUC makes California's investor-owned utilities full partners in accelerating the drive to a zero emission transportation future. As the network of residential, workplace, and public electric vehicle charging stations expands, more communities will be able to enjoy the pleasures of driving plug-in electric vehicles."

I am especially pleased that the proposals we approved have specific set asides for disadvantaged communities in the utilities' service areas. That's because we want to make sure areas of the state hit hard by heavy vehicle traffic and pollution don't get left behind.

Specifically, our vote authorized Pacific Gas and Electric Company and Southern California Edison to install vehicle chargers at more than 1,500 sites supporting 15,000 medium or heavy-duty vehicles.

We also approved rebates to San Diego Gas & Electric residential customers for installing up to 60,000, 240-volt charging stations at their homes. Yet another proposal calls for 234 fast-charging stations at 52 public sites in Northern California.

One-fourth of the SDG&E and PG&E programs must be in so-called disadvantaged communities, and 40 percent of the Southern California Edison programs must go for medium and heavy-duty vehicle chargers in similarly distressed communities.

None of this has been considered lightly or hastily. My fellow Commissioners and I have been working hard to balance costs that would be passed on to utility consumers with benefits to those same consumers. We've carefully considered the impacts on competition and have directed utilities to hire diverse vendors and bring their programs to California communities that have often been overlooked.

Our work began in 2016, a year after passage of Senate Bill 350, California's "Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act," when we directed the state's investor-owned utilities to submit applications aimed at advancing transportation electrification across all sectors. The three utilities eventually submitted plans to spend about $1 billion in ratepayer funds on the effort.

We held more than a dozen hearings and public meetings, including 11 days of Evidentiary Hearings and four Commissioner-led community workshops around California. Almost 30 stakeholders - ratepayer advocacy groups, automobile manufacturers, environmental and environmental justice organizations, utilities, equipment manufacturers, electric vehicle service providers, transit agencies, fleet operators and labor representatives - participated. We consulted our partners at the California Energy Commission and the CARB.

My fellow Commissioners and I understand that the only way to get to a largely carbon-free California is by substantially electrifying the state's vast transportation system.  That's because cars and trucks and related transportation activities account for about 50 percent of California's greenhouse gas emissions. As a member of the CPUC for the past six years, it's been an honor to help shape this historic effort.

 No state has made a commitment approaching this level, and ramifications of this bold move go far beyond California. As with so many of the state's pioneering environmental and energy policies, if we're successful with this and other electrification efforts already underway, much of the nation will likely follow California's lead.

 My motivation throughout this proceeding has been simple and transparent. We want to have utilities invest in these programs and expect more proposals from them in the future.  But as we move to provide incentives to grow the market for electric vehicles, we can never lose sight of the fact that ratepayer money is precious.  We don't want to offer utilities incentives that aren't necessary; nor do we want to over-burden their customers.

Being a CPUC Commissioner requires weighing many different interests as we work to ensure all Californians have clean, safe, and reliable energy. Our transportation electrification programs, like everything we do, attempt to strike the right balance, treat everyone fairly, and keep California a global leader in the fight against climate change. We do that because we believe it's good for California and for our nation and world.

CPUC Proposal Would Strengthen Public Notification Requirements Before Electric Utilities De-Energize in Emergencies

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In our ongoing commitment to public safety, we have issued a proposal that, if approved by our Commissioners, would require all investor-owned electric companies to comply with certain rules and customer notification requirements before de-energizing electric facilities in cases of emergencies.  De-energization of an electrical circuit would shut off power to all customers served by that circuit.

Utilities are required to operate their systems in a safe and reliable manner. De-energizing electric facilities during dangerous conditions can save lives and properties, and can prevent wildfires.  The decision by a utility to de-energize facilities for public safety is complex and dependent on many factors including fuel moisture; aerial and ground firefighting capabilities; active fires that indicate dangerous fire conditions; situational awareness provided by fire agencies, the National Weather Service, and the U.S. Forest Service; and local meteorological conditions of humidity and winds.

The proposal issued on May 30, 2018, would provide guidelines that the electric utilities must follow, and strengthens public safety requirements when a utility decides to de-energize its facilities during dangerous conditions. Current regulations regarding de-energization only apply to San Diego Gas & Electric. The proposal extends the existing regulations to all electric investor-owned utilities in California and also strengthens the requirements.

The proposal requires that utilities meet with the local communities that may be impacted by a future de-energization event before putting the practice in effect in a particular area, and requires customer notifications prior to a de-energization event, if feasible. If the proposal is approved, utilities would have 30 days to submit a report to the CPUC outlining their plans regarding public outreach, notification, and mitigation of customer impacts due to de-energization and the resulting power shut offs. Further, within 60 days, utilities would be required to convene De-Energization Informational Workshops with representatives from state agencies, tribal governments, local agencies, and representatives from the local communities that may be affected by a de-energization event. The purpose of these workshops is to explain, and receive feedback on, the utilities' de-energization policies and procedures.

A utility would be required to notify the CPUC as soon as practicable after it decides to de-energize facilities, and to notify the CPUC within 30 minutes after all electric service is restored.  After a de- energization event, a utility also would be required to submit a report to the CPUC explaining the decision to shut off power, its impacts on customers, and other relevant matters. The decision to shut off power may be reviewed by the CPUC as part of its broad jurisdiction over public safety and utility operations.

The first opportunity that the CPUC's Commissioners have to vote on the proposal is July 12, 2018.

The proposal issued for comment on May 30, 2018, is available at: http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PublishedDocs/Published/G000/M215/K379/215379996.PDF.

Comment on the proposal can be submitted to public.advisor@cpuc.ca.gov referencing proceeding Res ESRB-8.

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