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California Energy Infrastructure Safety

The commission and the office must share results from various safety activities, including relevant inspections and regulatory development

By Chris Micheli, August 28, 2022 5:30 pm

California has numerous formal acts in statute. Government Code Title 2, Division 3, Part 7.3 provides the California Energy Infrastructure Safety Act, which is contained in Sections 15470 to 15476. Part 7.3 was added in 2019 by Chapter 81.

Section 15470 provides that the state has long recognized the critical nature of its energy and communication infrastructure, in its importance in driving the engine of the state’s prosperity, in the hardships placed on the state’s residents in the absence of the services the infrastructure provides, and in the devastation that can occur when the operators of the infrastructure lose operational control of the infrastructure.

It is further declared to be the purpose of this part and the policy of this state that all environmental, health, and safety functions of this state are to be coordinated as far as possible with the comparable functions of its political subdivisions, of the federal government, including its various departments and agencies, of other states, and of private agencies of every type, to the end that the most effective use may be made of all manpower, resources, and facilities in managing the environmental, health, and safety of energy and communication infrastructure in the state.

Section 15472 names the act. Section 15472 defines the following terms: “director”; “office”; and, “regulated entity.” Section 15473 provides that there is in state government, within the Natural Resources Agency, the Office of Energy Infrastructure Safety. The office is under the supervision of the Director of the Office of Energy Infrastructure Safety, who has all rights and powers of a head of an office as provided by this code.

In addition, the director is appointed by, and holds office at the pleasure of, the Governor. The appointment of the director is subject to confirmation by the Senate.

Section 15474 provides that nothing in this part operates to prevent the office from formally recognizing committees or boards established by, or with segments of, the private sector, public agencies, or both the private sector and public agencies, that control facilities, resources, or the provision of services essential to the operation of energy or communication infrastructure.

Section 15475 specifies that the office is the successor to and, effective July 1, 2021, is vested with, all of the duties, powers, and responsibilities of the Wildfire Safety Division including, but not limited to, the power to compel information and conduct investigations.

Section 15475.1 specifies that the office may determine that a regulated entity is not in compliance with any matter under the authority of the office. If necessary, the office may undertake an investigation into whether the regulated entity is noncompliant with its duties and responsibilities or has otherwise committed violations of any laws, regulations, or guidelines within the authority of the office.

In addition, the office’s primary objective is to ensure that regulated entities are reducing wildfire risk and complying with energy infrastructure safety measures as required by law.

Section 15475.2 provides that the office may issue a notice of defect or violation to direct the regulated entity to correct any defect or noncompliance with the approved wildfire mitigation plan or failure to comply with any laws, regulations, or guidelines within the authority of the office.

Section 15475.4 states a compliance officer designated by the director may issue notices of defect or violation to any regulated entity. The notice of defect or violation must allege the deficiency, violation, or failure to act. The notice of defect or violation must be posted on the office’s internet website.

Section 15475.5 provides that the decisions of the office are subject to judicial review in the superior court. The superior court must give preference to cases seeking judicial review of decisions of the office over all civil actions or proceedings pending before the superior court. Appeals of the superior court’s decision of those cases are to be given preference in hearings before the court of appeal and the Supreme Court.

Section 15475.6 requires the office to adopt guidelines setting forth the requirements, format, timing, and any other matters required to exercise its powers, perform its duties, and meet its responsibilities at a publicly noticed meeting during which the office presents proposed guidelines or guideline amendments and allows all interested stakeholders and members of the public an opportunity to comment. 

Section 15476 requires the Public Utilities Commission and the office to enter into a memorandum of understanding to cooperatively develop consistent approaches and share data related to electric infrastructure safety. The commission and the office must share results from various safety activities, including relevant inspections and regulatory development.

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