Safety and Enforcement Blog

CPUC Opens Penalty Case Against PG&E for Kern Incident

(Electric Safety and Reliability) Permanent link

The CPUC, following a staff investigation, will consider penalties against PG&E for a contract worker fatality that occurred while he was dismantling an unused fuel oil tank at the Kern power plant in Bakersfield.


PG&E hired Cleveland Wrecking Company to dismantle four empty fuel storage tanks at its retired Kern power plant.  On June 19, 2012, a Cleveland Wrecking Company employee did not survive injuries he sustained when a portion of a fuel tank wall he was dismantling collapsed inward. The CPUC’s Safety and Enforcement Division’s investigation determined that PG&E failed to accurately and adequately evaluate safety in contract bid proposals; did not provide adequate contractor project safety review and oversight; and neglected to evaluate safer alternatives to manually torch cutting unsupported, weakened tank walls from an elevated man-lift.


The Safety and Enforcement Division alleges that PG&E sought to delegate its duty to maintain a safe system to a third party contractor, and that the utility failed to monitor and achieve a safety culture at Kern necessary to proactively identify and mitigate hazards. Further, the Safety and Enforcement Division alleges that PG&E failed to conduct a prompt and thorough incident root cause analysis, as requested by the Safety and Enforcement Division, in order to assist in identifying and implementing effective corrective actions to improve safety and reduce the likelihood of future incidents.


The Safety and Enforcement Division concludes that PG&E: 1) violated California Public Utilities Code Section 451, which requires every public utility to furnish and maintain its facilities as necessary to promote the safety of its employees, patrons, and the public, and 2) improperly delegated to an independent contractor the duties or liabilities imposed on PG&E by state law and CPUC rules, general orders, and decisions. 


Based on the Safety and Enforcement Division’s staff investigation, the CPUC’s Commissioners today voted to open a formal proceeding to consider penalties against PG&E for its role in the incident, as well as consider additional remedies to require PG&E to correct identified deficiencies and to further improve the safety culture throughout its operations.

Read more.

CPUC Takes Further Steps To Modernize Electric Grid Through Non-Utility Owned Energy Resources

(Electric Safety and Reliability) Permanent link

The CPUC has initiated a long-term project to modernize the state’s electric grid by incorporating non-utility owned energy resources into the planning and operation of the electric distribution system.

The new Rulemaking, in response to Assembly Bill 327 (Perea, 2013) will evaluate the utilities’ existing and future electric distribution infrastructure and planning procedures with respect to incorporating Distributed Energy Resources into the planning and operation of their electric distribution systems. Utilities are scheduled to file with the CPUC their Distribution Resources Plan Proposals for consideration by July 1, 2015.

Said Commissioner Mike Florio, "This is one of the most important proceedings that the CPUC has launched in recent years, and the results will help to shape ‘the utility of the future’ in a manner that best serves the consumers of California."

Prospective changes to distribution planning processes, as contemplated in the Rulemaking, will take into account the safety of utility personnel, first responders, inspectors, installers, and end-users. This is especially important given that there will be more opportunities in the future for customers to seek interconnection of new devices and technologies to the distribution system.

"Traditional distribution system planning is limited in its ability to support State policies on distributed energy and emerging technologies," said Commissioner Michael Picker. "Through this proceeding the CPUC will guide and evaluate the distributed energy proposals of the utilities, including considering the safety issues that arise from changes to the utility practices of distribution resource planning."

Interested parties may file responses to the questions asked in the Rulemaking by September 5, 2014. The CPUC’s Energy Division will hold a public workshop on September 17, 2014.