On May 5, the Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued a Proposed Decision to discontinue the Rule 20A undergrounding program. Details are below. Of note, local governments with Rule 20A work credits should work quickly to take advantage of any remaining balances before they expire.
The Rule 20A program funds the undergrounding of overhead power lines and was originally created to address the aesthetic impacts of the power lines. Local projects are completed through ratepayer-funded work credits that are allocated to communities based on the number of meters in that jurisdiction.
The CPUC previously discontinued the annual allocation of Rule 20A work credits, but was exploring whether the program should be expanded to include wildfire safety-related undergrounding. The CPUC reasoned it would be better to discontinue the program altogether to “prevent ratepayers from funding inefficient and inequitable infrastructure investments.” While many rural jurisdictions have benefited from the Rule 20A program, the vast majority of projects funded have been in dense, urban communities like Los Angeles and the Bay Area.
The CPUC proposed that any work credits that have not been allocated to an Active Rule 20A project within one year of the decision’s adoption shall be deemed expired and that any unused work credits shall expire December 31, 2033. It requires utilities to prioritize reallocation of work credits from inactive communities to Active Projects in an underserved or Environmental and Social Justice Community census tract. The CPUC also urges utilities to give jurisdictions an opportunity to contribute to Rule 20A projects that have insufficient work credits.
While the Proposed Decision declined to allow Rule 20A work credits to be used for wildfire-related undergrounding, it does require the large investor-owned utilities (IOUs) to consult with local and tribal governments about wildfire-related undergrounding investment plans as part of their existing semi-annual workshops. The CPUC did acknowledge that
“Local and tribal governments should have the opportunity to provide input on large electric utilities’ wildfire-related undergrounding plans on a regular basis. Local governments have valuable knowledge of the wildfire-related needs of their communities. It is not sufficient for utilities to inform local governments about wildfire-related undergrounding plans and projects after these plans are final.”
For more information, contact RCRC Policy Advocate, John Kennedy.