The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is the state agency that regulates investor-owned electric utilities as well as other investor-owned utilities that provide gas, water and telecommunication services. When investor-owned utilities wish to sell, lease, or encumber their facilities, they must seek approval from the CPUC via an application process. The CPUC evaluates applications thoroughly before approving, denying or conditionally approving them by using two processes known as the environmental evaluation and general proceeding. 

Environmental Evaluation

The CPUC is conducting its environmental evaluation in accordance with both the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and with its own environmental rules. CEQA provides guidelines to ensure a thorough environmental evaluation. Specifically, it requires the examination of particular environmental issues such as water and air quality, noise, land uses, agricultural, biological, and cultural resources, mineral resources, public services, recreation, population, housing, transportation and aesthetics. 

General Proceeding

The CPUC's general proceeding is a formal review process that considers how projects could potentially benefit or harm the public, including its potential effects on utility ratepayers. The CPUC will seek a decision about the project that strikes a balance among power production, land use, and environmental stewardship. A CPUC Commissioner and Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) are in charge of the general proceeding, which may occur while the environmental review is underway. The general proceeding will include a pre-hearing conference, an evidentiary hearing, and a public participation hearing. Conferences and Hearings. The pre-hearing conference is the first open forum in the general proceeding. Its purpose is to determine the potentially affected parties, specific project issues, and to develop a preliminary filing and hearing schedule. After the conference, the ALJ issues a scoping memo that lists the issues raised during the pre-hearing conference and a schedule for addressing these issues in the general proceeding. The prehearing conference for this project was held October 30, 2000.   The evidentiary hearing is similar to a formal courtroom proceeding. Participants may present their "case" through testimony and evidence, and may be subject to questioning from other participants. Its purpose is to gather evidence so that the ALJ and the Commissioner fully understand the issues of the case. By registering as a formal participant to the proceeding, you will receive copies of all filings, legal briefs, formal testimonies, and other documents related to the general proceeding. The general proceeding is a formal process and many stakeholders find that legal assistance is necessary to participate fully.   Another way to participate in the general proceeding is to attend the public participation hearings, which the Commissioner and ALJ may hold if there is sufficient public interest. At these hearings, the general public may provide perspectives on the proposed project or project alternatives. During the hearing, the ALJ will give each participant an opportunity to speak. Often the ALJ must limit each individual's time to ensure that all attendees will be given a chance to voice their opinions.  

Decision Making

When both the environmental evaluation and general proceeding are complete, the ALJ will prepare a proposed decision for consideration by the five CPUC Commissioners. The ALJ will base the proposed decision on the general proceeding evidence, the environmental study findings, and the public comments received. Each Commissioner may draft an alternative proposed decision for CPUC review. All five Commissioners will then vote on the proposed decision and any alternates at a meeting of the full Commission. For information about how to get involved and to obtain an intervenors guide for the general proceeding, contact the Public Advisor's Office or visit the CPUC Web site. For information about the environmental evaluation process or to submit your environmental comments, contact the CPUC environmental evaluation staff.