Details for: SCE Reply to POC Protest of Advice 4031-E.pdf


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Gary A. Stern, Ph.D.
Managing Director, State Regulatory Operations

August 1, 2019
Energy Division
Attention: Tariff Unit
California Public Utilities Commission
505 Van Ness Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94102
SUBJECT:

Reply of Southern California Edison Company to the Protect Our
Communities Foundation Protest to Advice Letter 4031-E

Dear Energy Tariff Division Unit:
Pursuant to General Rule 7.4.3 of the California Public Utilities Commission’s
(Commission or CPUC) General Order (GO) 96-B, Southern California Edison
Company (SCE) hereby submits its Reply to the Protect Our Communities Foundation
(POC) Protest (Protest) to SCE’s Advice Letter (AL) 4031-E, Description of SCE’s
Enhanced Overhead Inspections (EOI) Program that Clarifies Differences from SCE’s
Existing Inspections, what the Enhanced Inspections Involve, Specific Activities that will
be Performed, and Data that will be Collected as well as Databases Related to these
Inspections.
Background and Summary of Reply
In its 2019 Wildfire Mitigation Plan (WMP), SCE described how it commenced the new
EOI initiative in late 2018 to address the evolving wildfire risk. As explained in AL
4031-E, EOI goes beyond existing inspection programs and was intended to complete
enhanced inspections of all overhead transmission and distribution structures
(approximately 50,000 transmission structures and 380,000 distribution structures) and
equipment in SCE’s High Fire Risk Areas (HFRA) prior to the height of the 2019 wildfire
season. SCE further described that these enhanced inspections would focus on
potential ignition risk conditions (as opposed to historical compliance-based protocols)
and issues found would be remediated consistent with the Commission’s established
three-priority rating system.1
In Decision (D.)19-05-038 (SCE-specific WMP Decision), the Commission approved
SCE’s 2019 WMP, including its EOI initiative, and ordered SCE to comply with the
reporting, metrics, advice letter, and other follow-up requirements set forth therein.2 As
1
2

See SCE’s 2019 WMP, Section 4.2.3.1.
D.19-05-038, OP 2.

P.O. Box 800

8631 Rush Street

Rosemead, California 91770

(626) 302-9645

Fax (626) 302-6396





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Energy Division California Public Utilities Commission August 1, 2019 Page 2 part of the SCE-specific WMP Decision’s follow-up EOI requirements in Ordering Paragraph (OP) 2, SCE submitted AL 4031-E to further describe it’s EOI initiative. These requirements were specific and required SCE to further describe 1) its EOI initiative to clarify (in more detail than provided in the WMP) how it differs from SCE’s existing inspections, 2) what the enhanced inspections involve, including a description of the specific activities that will be performed as part of these inspections, 3) data that will be collected, and 4) any databases that will be created or supplemented as part of these inspections. In discussing SCE’s EOI initiative, the Commission noted The Utility Reform Network’s (TURN) and California Environmental Justice Alliance’s (CEJA) concerns that the EOI initiative will duplicate SCE’s existing Overhead Detail Inspection (ODI) program.3 Taking these concerns into account and in developing the follow-up EOI requirements, the Commission explained that the EOI initiative should not consist simply of perfunctory “drive-by” patrols given the magnitude of the amount of transmission and distribution assets to be inspected by the height of the 2019 fire season.4 The Commission further stated that it was unclear how SCE could perform detailed inspections of this volume of equipment in so short a time. In light of the stated concerns set forth during the litigation of the WMP OIR proceeding, the Commission developed the specific, prescriptive advice letter reporting requirements discussed above. POC’s Protest fundamentally misunderstands the SCE-specific WMP Decision’s requirements and misstates facts included in AL 4017-E. Moreover, the vast majority of POC’s arguments are policy objections and should be rejected consistent with GO 96-B, General Rule 7.4.2.5 POC also misunderstands the holdings of D.19-05-038 and D.19-05-036 (WMP Guidance Decision). The SCE-specific WMP Decision approved SCE’s 2019 WMP including its EOI as an initiative to reduce wildfire risk. As discussed below, many of POC’s arguments constitute a collateral attack on this decision by questioning the efficacy of the Commission-approved EOI initiative and wrongly attempt to relitigate SCE’s 2019 WMP.6 Furthermore, the WMP Guidance Decision made clear that approval of the WMP allows important wildfire mitigation work to continue prior to cost recovery.7 The Commission further clarified this by stating that cost recovery of the programs included in the WMP is a separate matter to be addressed in each utility’s 3 4 5 6 7 D.19-05-038, pp. 9-11. D.19-05-038, p. 11. See GO 96-B, General Rule 7.4.2, p.13 that states, “a protest may not rely on policy objections to an advice letter where the relief requested in the advice letter follows rules or directions established by statue or Commission order applicable to the utility.” See, e.g., POC’s opening sentence explaining how its concerns that SCE’s EOI initiative is duplicative of its existing inspection programs, such as its ODI program, is a threshold matter but fails to note that the Commission explicitly took this concern into account in determining the specific follow-up EOI requirements. D.19-05-036, pp. 4-5 and 25.
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Energy Division California Public Utilities Commission August 1, 2019 Page 3 General Rate Cases.8 The Commission also ordered all electric utility respondents to file a report addressing further data collection and performance metrics and instructed the Commission’s Safety and Enforcement Division (SED) to facilitate workshops to develop a common template for capturing output-based performance metrics.9 As explained herein, POC’s Protest should be rejected as AL 4031-E met each of the SCE-specific WMP Decision’s follow-up EOI requirements. SCE’s AL is therefore compliant with the SCE-specific WMP Decision and further information beyond those requirements will be addressed in subsequent Commission processes and SCE filings. Discussion Contrary to POC’s arguments, AL 4031-E adequately met the SCE-specific WMP Decision’s follow-up EOI requirements. POC also wrongly asserts in its Protest that the Commission should require SCE to (1) explain how it chose its risk-based approach in developing its EOI initiative, what alternatives were considered and whether the approach is reducing fire risk in SCE’s HFRA,10 (2) provide an explanation of the fire threat reduction benefits,11 3) describe what has actually been completed and what SCE intends to complete in the remainder of 2019 and into 2020,12 (4) describe metrics to validate whether the EOI initiative is in fact enhancing the detection of immediate wildfire risk,13 and (5) specify the risk modeling and the EOI initiative’s costs.14 POC also misinterprets SCE’s EOI initiative by asserting that it contains a di minimis scope of work. POC’s arguments and assertions are incorrect as described more thoroughly below. SCE Met Each Specific Follow-up EOI Requirement As described above, the SCE-specific WMP Decision includes four specific follow-up EOI requirements. SCE included information in AL 4031-E that met each requirement for its distribution and transmission EOI efforts and provided similar information for new EOI efforts (including aerial EOI and generation EOI) initiated since SCE submitted its 2019 WMP. POC argues that SCE did not adequately explain how its EOI initiative differs from the many inspection programs mentioned in SCE’s 2019 WMP.15 This is not correct. SCE described the fundamental difference between its EOI initiative and traditional inspection practices by explaining that this initiative was developed to address “the new abnormal” wildfire climate and is focused on identifying and 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 D.19-05-036, p. 4. D.19-05-036, p. 4. Protest, p. 3. Protest, p. 4. Protest, p. 4. Protest, p. 4. Protest, p. 4. Protest, p. 2.
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Energy Division California Public Utilities Commission August 1, 2019 Page 4 remediating immediate and/or probable wildfire risk whereas historical inspection practices have been compliance-based and were not solely focused on identifying potential ignition risks. SCE further described, for each of its distribution, transmission and generation EOI efforts, additional differences between the EOI initiative and traditional inspections. For example, for distribution EOI, SCE explained how it developed a specifically designed ignition risk criteria, a distribution inspection reference guide, a specific distribution EOI criteria, and how, in contrast to traditional compliance inspections, EOI was conducted by SCE Journey Linemen to further improve ignition risk reduction effectiveness.16 These processes were all tailored to ensure effective ignition-focused mitigation and were not duplicative of compliance-based inspection programs such as ODI. SCE also described what the EOI involves and specific activities that are carried out under the initiative such as inspecting hundreds of thousands of structures by visually inspecting them from the ground using specific riskbased criteria.17 SCE described the data, forms, processes and information systems SCE developed and leveraged to implement the EOI initiative. All the required information is clearly described in AL 4031-E. POC Erroneously Asserts that SCE Failed to Meet the Follow-up EOI Requirements by Adding Requirements the Commission Never Stated POC incorrectly suggests the Commission should include a wide range of additional follow-up EOI requirements beyond the four specific requirements above. The Commission, for example, did not require SCE to demonstrate the fire threat reduction benefits of the EOI initiative, yet POC asserts it should.18 Nor did the Commission require SCE to explain how it chose its risk-based approach, what EOI alternatives were considered or whether the approach demonstrably reduces fire risk in HFRA. In fact, the Commission ordered SCE to include in its subsequent year WMP, i.e., 2020 WMP, additional risk analysis elements that will help evaluate the effectiveness of SCE’s mitigation programs and strategies19 Contrary to POC’s assertions, the Commission also did not require SCE to describe metrics to validate whether the EOI initiative is in fact enhancing the detection of immediate wildfire risk.20 POC asserts that the Commission should require SCE to specify its risk modeling and describe the costs of its EOI initiative. The SCE-specific Decision sets no such requirement for discussing risk modeling nor providing cost details. During the litigation of the proceeding, SCE provided the required cost estimates for all WMP mitigation activities; there simply is no advice letter follow-up requirement on this issue. POC also asserts that SCE should be required to explain the work to be conducted in 2020, yet the post-decision EOI 16 17 18 19 20 AL 4031-E, pp. 2-3. Since submitting AL 4031-E, SCE has completed all ground-based distribution EOI. Protest, p. 4. D.19-05-038, pp. 23. This is also debunked by the fact that the Guidance Decision ordered all respondents to provide further metric information in the post-decision Data Collection for Wildfire Mitigation Plan Reports and described a process, including workshops, to establish improved performance metrics. See Guidance Decision, Ordering Paragraph No. 2 and pp. 25-27.
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Energy Division California Public Utilities Commission August 1, 2019 Page 5 requirements are for SCE’s 2019 WMP and the Commission has since separately commenced Phase 2 of Rulemaking (R.)18-10-007 that will develop the issues, schedule, etc. for the 2020 WMP. The vast majority of POC’s arguments are based on requirements beyond what the Commission specifically ordered and should be rejected. POC Misstates the Facts Included in AL 4031-E In asserting that SCE’s EOI initiative does not adequately describe the differences between historical inspection programs, POC misstated the facts and ignores the Commission’s guidance to include details that explain how the EOI involve more than “drive by” patrols.21 For example, POC asserts that SCE stated how the “primary focus of SCE’s EOI is to inspect, assess, and remediate SCE’s infrastructure in its high fire risk area.”22 SCE did state this, but POC left out the last four words of “to reduce ignition risk” and the most pertinent phrase of this sentence in how EOI differs from traditional inspection programs. POC is also incorrect to claim that the AL “merely” states that the EOI initiative is being implemented in addition to SCE’s regular compliance and safety inspections as an added measure as how SCE described the differences.23 SCE made this statement for context and as part of the introduction and not as the difference between EOI and its traditional inspection programs. POC also describes the EOI work performed in 2019 as de-minimis.24 That is patently incorrect. SCE completed hundreds of thousands of enhanced inspections across its HFRA as part of its EOI initiative. This magnitude of inspection work has never been done before over such short period of time. These inspections have led to thousands of remediation notifications. SCE has and will continue to remediate issues discovered during these inspections using the existing three-priority rating system. POC’s Protest Wrongly Attempts to Relitigate the Commission’s Approval of SCE’s 2019 WMP As described above, the Commission approved SCE’s 2019 WMP including its EOI initiative and only required SCE to submit a compliance-based Tier 1 AL and provide specific supplemental information.25 POC makes several statements that attack the Commission’s approval of SCE’s 2019 WMP. POC, without any substantiated information, incorrectly asserts that SCE’s risk-based ignition-focused EOI initiative contains a new layer of non-field, computer-based risk assessments of unmeasured 21 22 23 24 25 D.19-05-038, p. 12. Like distribution EOI, SCE explained the unique aspects of its transmission and generation EOI initiatives and how these practices are focused on reducing ignition risk and how they are different than historical inspection programs. Protest, p. 2. Protest, p. 5. Like distribution EOI, SCE explained the unique aspects of its transmission and generation EOI initiatives and how these practices are focused on reducing ignition risk and how they are different than historical inspection programs.
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Energy Division California Public Utilities Commission August 1, 2019 Page 6 value and posits the Commission did not intend to allow for this untrue aspect of SCE’s EOI initiative. The fact that SCE uses risk analysis and modeling to prioritize its wildfire mitigation strategies and programs, including EOI, was described in its 2019 WMP.26 SCE has and will continue to improve its risk-informed prioritization methods for its wildfire mitigation efforts. SCE has provided comprehensive information on its riskinformed analyses and has updated the Commission on current and future improvements to these important analyses. As noted above, POC also posits that the Commission did not consider (or should revisit) the concern that the EOI initiative is duplicative of traditional inspection programs. The Commission explicitly noted TURN’s and CEJA’s concerns as well as included this issue in its discussion setting forth the specific follow-up EOI requirements. 27 These issues were addressed in the proceeding and the Commission’s WMP decisions and should not be allowed to be relitigated in this Tier 1 AL submission. Conclusion For the foregoing reasons, SCE respectfully requests the Commission dismiss POC’s Protest and approve AL 4031-E as submitted. Sincerely, /s/ Gary A. Stern Gary A. Stern, Ph.D. GAS:rs:cm Enclosures cc: 26 27 Edward Randolph, Director, CPUC Energy Division Franz Cheng, CPUC Energy Division Jamie Pang, Protect Our Communities Foundation Service List for R.18-10-007 See SCE’s 2019 WMP, Section 3 and AL 4032-E that discusses improvements to its riskbased deployment analyses. D.19-05-038, pp. 11-12.
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