The Barbed Wire - November 1, 2019

November 1, 2019
RCRC Requests More Public Scrutiny with Investor-Owned Utility PSPS Post-Event Report Filings
SRS Extension and SRS Trust
Federal Appropriations Update
Rural Broadband Update
The Economic Impact of Tourism on California’s Rural Counties

RCRC Requests More Public Scrutiny with Investor-Owned Utility PSPS Post-Event Report Filings

On October 30th, RCRC filed a response in support of motions made by the California Community Choice Association (CalCCA) and the California Municipal Utilities Association (CMUA) to require formal filings of Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE) Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) post-event reports.  

RCRC agrees with California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) President Marybel Batjer’s statement in an October 14th letter to PG&E where she states that the execution of the October 9th large-scale PSPS event was a failure.  Furthermore, RCRC members’ experiences with the most recent PSPS events have not shown much improvement from the October 9th protocols for either IOU.  RCRC believes the CPUC and parties would benefit from receiving timely post-PSPS event action reports, and from being given the opportunity to comment on lessons learned, and real-time progress or potential improvements made by IOUs per the CPUC’s instructions, such as improved coordination with county governments and local emergency management, sharing medical baseline customer information without a nondisclosure agreement, advance planning, and embedding empowered local liaisons on county Emergency Operations Centers.

Earlier this year, the CPUC initiated two proceedings to tackle the complex issues surrounding Investor-Owned Utilities (IOUs) and their role in wildfire prevention.  RCRC was granted party status on March 18, 2019.

RCRC’s official response before the CPUC can be accessed here.  Please contact Staci Heaton, RCRC Regulatory Affairs Advocate at (916) 447-4806 with questions.

SRS Extension and SRS Trust

A bipartisan letter has been circulating among House Offices in support of including two years of Federal Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) and Secure Rural Schools (SRS) funding in the omnibus spending package currently being negotiated.  

The letter is being led by Representative Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) and Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington), and has been signed by the following  California Representatives: McClintock (R-Placer), LaMalfa (R-Butte), Huffman (D-Marin), Garamendi (D-Yolo), Costa (D-Fresno), Cook (R-San Bernardino), Lee (D-Oakland), Cox (D-Kings), Vargas (D-San Diego), Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara), and Brownley (D-Ventura).   The SRS extension will either be included in an Omnibus Appropriations package, if one is reached, or it can possible be attached to a “continuing resolution” (CR), or an item that is technically outside the scope of a legislation.   Additionally, Representative Jared Huffman is continuing his work to introduce a House SRS Trust bill, which would be a companion to legislation in the Senate introduced by Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon).  The SRS Trust bill would create a permanent funding source for the Secure Rural Schools program, and take away the uncertainty that comes from year-in/year-out appropriations.

The letter can be accessed here.

Federal Appropriations Update

Leadership in both the House and Senate and White House officials met Tuesday to try to reinvigorate stalled appropriation negotiations.   Next Thursday, the Senate is expected to “make a procedural move” on four of the 12 annual spending bills: Agriculture (S 2522), Transportation-HUD (S 2520), Interior-Environment (S 2580), and Commerce-Justice-Science (S 2584).  

Both the Senate and House appropriations bills contain identical report language on addressing staff vacancies at the Department of Agriculture, language that RCRC has worked to support and advance.  Language below:

Staff Vacancies.—The Committee is concerned with the number of staff vacancies within USDA. The Committee continues to provide funding increases for many agencies at USDA, yet staffing levels continue to decline. This creates delays in the processing of applications and the release of important funding throughout the Department. The Committee expects the Secretary to staff agencies at the appropriated levels, not the budget request level. The Committee also expects a report, no later than 180 days after enactment, that details staffing levels for all research agencies; the Farm Service Agency; all marketing agencies; Rural Development; Food and Nutrition Service; and the Foreign Agricultural Service. The report shall include vacancies that have remained unfilled for more than six months, plans to fill those vacancies, and the percentage and number of vacancy announcements that were posted for current internal employees only and for less than two weeks. The report shall also include for each agency the number of fulltime equivalent [FTE] staff utilized and the number of vacancies not filled for fiscal years 2015 through 2019.

Rural Broadband Update

Last weekend, the Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) approved performance testing procedures for carriers receiving Connect America Fund.  This would apply carriers to deploy fixed broadband networks to unserved Americans living in rural areas, helping to ensure that rural Americans have access to the same high-quality networks as Americans in urban areas.  

The Connect America Fund provides support for broadband and voice service in rural areas where service would not be available or affordable without such support. This approval by the FCC also ensures that carriers remain accountable to consumers, taxpayers, and the commission, while also delivering the network performance they have committed to provide.  The flexibility in these new testing procedures will enable carriers of all sizes and technical capabilities to meet testing requirements without unnecessary costs, while maintaining proper accountability.

The Economic Impact of Tourism on California’s Rural Counties

After nine consecutive years of growth, California’s travel and tourism economy continues to surge.    Visitors pumped more than $140 billion in travel spending in the last year, stimulating business development and providing Californians with more than one million jobs.  Increased travel spending is leading to record-setting hotel construction and more than $4 billion in annual investments in theme park, restaurant and other tourism-related infrastructure. These projects are creating secondary employment effects, generating high-quality jobs in building and construction.

Not only does tourism support the state, the industry is a boon for city and county budgets.  Last year, visitor spending generated $11.8 billion in tax revenue for state and local jurisdictions and was among the top three sources of funding for many counties.  This revenue helps fund vital programs and infrastructure projects and saves California households an additional $890 in taxes each year to maintain state and local services.  That’s enough money to resurface 17,000 miles of two-lane roads or employ 107,000 police officers.

It takes more than having the perfect destination to attract visitor dollars.  For more than 25 years, Visit California’s marketing programs have delivered billions of dollars of new visitor spending and helped establish California as the number one travel destination in the U.S.  Over the next five years, Visit California will be building on this success by investing $500 million in global marketing campaigns to ensure that the state remains a top consideration when travelers around the world are planning a trip.

Learn more about the economic impact of tourism upon your county, and the benefits of travel and tourism to California’s economy.


Announcements regarding hearings, grants, and public comment notices of importance to California's rural counties.


RCRC Hosts FREE Self Generation Incentive Program Webinar –$100M Available for Disadvantaged Communities and High Fire Threat Districts

The Self Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) started as a program for incentivizing natural gas fired Co-Generation installations, and was modified to include Energy Storage a few years ago.  When the program was modified, the California Public Utilities Commission also added an Equity Budget.  The Equity Budget is to ensure that economically disadvantaged ratepayer groups have a chance to access some of the funds by setting up a separate allocation.

The Equity Budget now has $110M in available funding, including $100M available for one of two uses: Energy Storage in Disadvantaged Communities; and, Energy Storage for Critical Resilience purposes in High Fire Threat Districts (HFTD), primarily in public sector applications.

The program is anticipated to start accepting applications beginning April 1, 2020, and the funds are expected to move extremely quickly.  Local governments that are interested in applying for these funds should plan to have completed applications ready for submission by late March 2020. 

RCRC is hosting a FREE webinar to provide further information, and assist counties with understanding the tasks that need to be completed for an application, and the options available to help with application preparation.  The webinar will be held Wednesday, November 6th at 3:00 p.m., and be led by Michael Day, Advanced Energy Program Development with Trane US, Inc.  Details and registration can be accessed here.


Siskiyou County Seeks County Administrator

The ideal candidate is an experienced county administrator/executive, or senior level executive from a comparable public sector organization; some relevant private sector experience may be helpful.

Details on the County Administrator position can be accessed here.


Shasta County Seeks County Executive Officer

Located at the northern end of the Sacramento Valley, nestled between Mt. Shasta and Mt. Lassen, Shasta County covers over 3,800+ square miles of rivers, lakes, mountains, State Parks, and National Forests. Easily one of the most picturesque counties in all of California, Shasta County, population 180,000, has an economy based on agriculture, tourism, timber, medical services, and retail businesses. Shasta County has a wealth of resources in a business friendly atmosphere promoting thriving industries.

Shasta County offers all of the amenities of the big city while retaining a comfortable small town atmosphere. With its natural beauty, diversified culture, affordable housing, excellent educational system, abundance of recreational opportunities, and excellent quality of life, Shasta County is a great place to live, work, and raise a family.

Details on the County Executive Officer position can be accessed here.