On December 13 the California Public Utilities Commission (“CPUC”) will vote on whether to open a new rulemaking to determine when an electric utility can de-energize power lines in cases of dangerous conditions that threaten life or property in California.

The CPUC is considering this new proceeding because California is experiencing unprecedented wildfire events. While the CPUC has granted utilities the authority to proactively shut down power to specific power lines in an effort to reduce the risk of wildfires started by utility equipment, utilities have been wary to do so. Part of the utilities’ caution is due to the negative consequences of leaving communities and essential facilities without power. Among other issues, this new proceeding will aim to identify a balance between reducing wildfire risk through de-energization and protection for vulnerable communities.

We anticipate that this new proceeding will be one of many at the CPUC that will address wildfire prevention and mitigation. Indeed, less than seven weeks ago the CPUC opened up another proceeding related to electric utility wildfire mitigation plans in response to. The CPUC will also host California’s first Wildfire Technology Innovation Summit in March 2019.