California Public Utilities Commission Wildfire Safety and Enforcement Branch Adopts New Tool to Protect Public


By Erol Kilic

On September 21, 2023, the Wildfire Safety and Enforcement Branch (WSEB) of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) adopted a new enforcement tool to further protect the public from violations of Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) guidelines.  The new Citation Program targets specified violations and immediately applies to all electric Investor-Owned Utilities (IOUs).  The citation program was approved in the wake of Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Resolution 440, which approved a settlement on June 14, 2023, for Southern California Edison (SCE) and the CPUC’s Safety Enforcement Division’s (SED) Administrative Enforcement Order (AEO) for $7 million regarding alleged failures associated with wildfire-related PSPSs in 2020.  The CPUC had also proposed AEOs against San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) and PacifiCorp for such failures, which were uncontested by both SDG&E and PacifiCorp and resulted in a $24,000 fine and required corrective actions, respectively, under Resolution M-4862.  The CPUC also initiated an AOE against Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), and as of October 14, 2022, a settlement for $8 million was proposed, but that AEO remains unresolved to date. (p. 4)

The CPUC’s pre-existing methods of enforcement include Orders Instituting Investigation (OIIs), Orders to Show Cause (OSCs), and AEOs, (as noted above). According to the CPUC, the new citation program will “complement these efforts and equip the Commission’s SED . . . with a useful tool to timely ensure compliance with and deter violations of the PSPS Guidelines.” (p. 5).  The citation program’s penalty structure was established under five major criteria: (1) severity of the offense; (2) conduct of the utility; (3) financial resources of the utility; (4) totality of the circumstances; and (5) past commission decisions. (pp. 9–11)  Each citation may include multiple offenses but not exceed $8 million. (p. 9)  Issuances of citations for specified violations are not mandatory, and the CPUC may alternatively initiate any formal proceedings authorized by state or federal law, court decisions or decrees, the CPUC’s Rules of Practice and Procedure, or prior CPUC orders, decisions, rules, directions, demands, or requirements.  The CPUC resolution further clarifies that “nothing in this resolution bars or affects the rights or remedies otherwise lawfully available to other persons or government agencies.” (p. 19)

For convenience, the table of specified violations and their corresponding scheduled fines have been included here.  Note: “CRC” stands for “Community Resource Center.”


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