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CPUC Actions Regarding EMFs

On January 15, 1991, the California Public Utilities Commission began an investigation to consider the Commission's potential 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 CPUC 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.

Due to the lack of scientific or medical conclusions about potential health effects from utility electric facilities and power lines, the CPUC adopted Seven Interim Measures that help to address public concern on this subject [D.93-11-013].  The interim EMF requirements apply to Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric, Sierra Pacific Power, and Pacific Power & Light.  Municipal utilities, like the Sacramento Municipal Utilities District and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, are not under CPUC jurisdiction, although they may voluntarily follow the same measures.

In accordance with Decision 93-11-013, the California Department of Health Services (DHS) initiated a research and education program regarding the possible health effects of electric and magnetic fields from power lines.

The CPUC emphasizes that the scientific community has not isolated the impact on health, if any, of exposure to EMFs from utility facilities.  Pending conclusive scientific evidence of possible harm, government has generally adopted the policy of avoiding any unnecessary new exposure if it can be avoided at a cost that is reasonable.  The CPUC will rely on the DHS to provide guidance about any future identified public health risk. 

The seven interim measures ordered in the CPUC's November 1993 decision are:

  • No-cost and low-cost steps to reduce EMF levels:  When regulated utlities design new projects or upgrade existing facilities, approximately 4% of the project's budget may be used for reducing EMFs.  The CPUC did not set specific reduction levels for EMFs .  It was inappropriate to set a specific numerical standard until a scientific basis for doing so exists.

  • New designs to reduce EMF levels:  The CPUC's Advisory and Compliance Division and Safety Division held workshops for utilities to develop EMF design guidelines for new and rebuilt facilities.  The guidelines incorporate alternative sites, increase the size of rights-of-way, place facilities underground, and use other suggested methods for reducing EMF levels at transmission, distribution and substation facilities

  • Measurement of EMFs:  Uniform residential and workplace EMF measurement programs were also designed in the workshops; they are available to utilities and their customers.  Other utilities are also encouraged to use them.

  • Education and Research:  The CPUC wants the public and groups having a financial or basic interest in EMFs to become involved in developing education and research programs;  these programs are established and managed by the DHS.  CPUC-regulated utilities and municipal utilities use ratepayer funds to pay for their share of development costs for the following programs:

  • EMF Education:  This $1.49 million program will provide credible, meaningful , consistent, and timely EMF information to electric utility customers, employees, and the public.  DHS will coordinate a uniform EMF education program to supplement, but not duplicate, those that most electric utilities already have.  Utilities without programs shoud implement one as soon as possible.

  • EMF Research:  A $5.6 million four-year non-experimental research program will be directed by DHS.  This program will provide utility participation in state, national, and international research to be pursued to the extent that it benefits ratepayers.

  • Other Research:  Utilities are authorized to contribute to federal experimental research conducted under the National Energy Policy Act of 1992.


  • What are EMFs?

  • CPUC Actions Regarding EMFs

  • CPUC/DHS Research Program

  • EMF Home Page


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