What is a safety certification?
To obtain a safety certification, an electrical corporation must satisfy conditions specified in Public Utilities Code Section 8389(e)(1-7). The certification is designed to encourage electrical corporations to invest in safety and improve safety culture to limit wildfire risks and reduce costs. (AB 1054, Section 2[f])
An electrical corporation with a safety certification is presumed to have acted reasonably in proceedings before the CPUC to recover costs of a utility-caused wildfire unless demonstrated otherwise. (Pub. Util. Code § 451.1[c]) A safety certification also may limit the amount the electrical corporation will be required to repay the California Wildfire Fund if it is found to have acted unreasonably. (Pub. Util. Code § 3292[h]) For more detail, see here Safety Certifications.
How does an electrical corporation qualify for safety certification?
To be eligible for a safety certification, an electrical corporation must document completion of the following specific actions related to safety. (Pub. Util. Code § 8389[e][1-7])
- It must have an Energy Safety-approved wildfire mitigation plan.
- It must be in “good standing,” meaning it has agreed to implement the findings of its most recent safety culture assessment.
- It must have an established safety committee of its board of directors composed of members with relevant safety experience.
- It must have an Energy Safety-approved executive compensation structure. This may include tying 100 percent of incentive compensation to safety performance and denying all incentive compensation if the utility causes a catastrophic wildfire that results in one or more fatalities.
- It must have a board-of-director-level safety reporting structure to Energy Safety and the California Public Utilities Commission.
- It must have an established compensation structure for any new or amended contracts for executive officers.
- It must demonstrate implementation of its approved wildfire mitigation plan, based on quarterly reporting and Implementation is evaluated based on actions taken by a utility, not the outcome of those actions.
Does a safety certification shield an electrical corporation from liability?
No. A safety certification does not protect or shield an electrical corporation from liability.
If an electrical corporation is granted a safety certification does that mean it is safe?
A safety certification is validation that an electrical corporation has documented completion of statutory actions related to safety. It does not constitute an affirmation by Energy Safety that an electrical corporation has taken all possible steps to prevent its equipment from causing wildfires or is in full compliance with its wildfire mitigation plan or other laws and requirements. (Pub. Util. Code § 8389[e][1-7])
How does Energy Safety ensure that an electrical corporation is becoming safer?
Energy Safety conducts activities throughout the year to ensure that all electrical corporations are becoming safer. These include:
- Requiring electrical corporations to revise their wildfire mitigation plans prior to approval when Energy Safety’s evaluation finds critical issues.
- Requiring electrical corporations to track and submit quarterly performance metrics so progress on implementation of wildfire mitigation initiatives can be monitored.
- Conducting annual safety culture assessments of each electrical corporation and issuing recommendations for improvement.
- Conducting field inspections and audits of electrical corporations’ completed wildfire mitigation projects and directing corrective action to remedy defects and violations.
- Conducting final compliance assessments on implementation of each year’s wildfire mitigation plans, determining whether an electrical corporation complied with its approved plan, and if necessary, issuing notices of violation.
- Submitting recommendations to the California Public Utilities Commission to pursue enforcement actions as warranted.
Does the public have a role in the safety certification process?
Public comment is solicited at various stages in the safety certification process.
First, pursuant to statute, Energy Safety provides a minimum of 30 days for public comment on the adoption of its guidelines, including guidelines regarding how electrical corporations should meet the listed criteria for a safety certification. (Gov. Code § 15475.6)
Second, pursuant to statute, Energy Safety makes publicly accessible on its website all documents that an electrical corporation submits to meet the seven listed safety certification criteria. (Pub. Util. Code § 8389[f])
Third, Energy Safety provides a 30-day public comment period and the opportunity for reply comments on each electrical corporation’s request for a safety certification.
How long does a safety certification last?
A safety certification remains in effect for 12 months from the date it is issued. An electrical corporation may re-apply for a safety certification each year, prior to expiration of a current safety certification.
Can a safety certification be revoked?
The law does not provide a process for revocation of a safety certification.