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CPUC issues tentative decision on Rule 20 program pertaining to undergrounding electric utility lines

Cal Cities will continue to advocate for cities’ interests in advance of May 20 hearing

April 21, 2021
Over the last year, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), through its rulemaking process, has been considering revisions to their Rule 20 undergrounding program, which lays out guidelines and procedures for undergrounding overhead electric facilities. 
On April 7, 2021, CPUC President Marybel Batjer issued a tentative decision regarding the Rule 20 program, following a reveiw of the CPUC staff Proposal for Rule 20 Program Reform and Enhancements presented last year. The proposal recommended that CPUC sunset the existing Rule 20A program over a 10-year period, drastically altering the way work credits are allocated to cities and the way cities use work credits to fund undergrounding projects.
Cal Cities, as a party of the Rule 20 proceeding, submitted comments outlining concerns with the proposal. Cal Cities advocated against the proposal to sunset the Rule 20A program so cities could continue to pursue undergrounding projects. Additionally, Cal Cities requested that cities be able to continue to borrow, sell, or trade work credits. Cal Cities believes that allowing cities to borrow, sell, or trade work credits ensures cities are able to accumulate enough credits to complete Rule 20A projects. Cal Cities also asked for Rule 20A project eligibility to be expanded to promote wildfire safety and emergency-related undergrounding.
The tentative decision failed to incorporate the best interest of cities, and includes the following significant changes to the Rule 20 program:
  • CPUC would not sunset the Rule 20A program immediately. However, cities will cease to receive work credits through the program on Dec 31, 2022.
  • CPUC would prohibit cities from borrowing, selling, or trading work credits from other jurisdictions immediately, unless a county wants to redistribute its work credits to cities within its jurisdiction or neighboring cities want to pool credits for a common project.
  • CPUC will continue to deliberate on whether to make changes to project eligibility criteria for Rule 20A in Phase Two of the proceeding. 
Many cities currently have insufficient work credits to carry out Rule 20A undergrounding projects. Therefore, the decision to cease allocating new work credits beyond 2022 and restrict cities’ flexibility to borrow, sell, or trade credits, fundamentally undermines cities' ability to conduct new undergrounding projects using the Rule 20A program.
The next step in the process is the review and vote on the tentative decision at the May 20, 2021 CPUC business meeting. Cal Cities will continue to advocate against these changes and will be submitting detailed concerns to the CPUC prior to the meeting.
How to Engage

Cities that are already parties to the rulemaking proceeding can provide input on the tentative decision by submitting comments directly to the CPUC. Cities that are not yet parties to the rulemaking proceeding can provide public comment when the tentative decision is considered at the May CPUC business meeting. The agenda for the meeting will be posted on the CPUC website approximately ten days before the business meeting.
If you would like to provide input to Cal Cities on the tentative decision, please reach out to Deputy General Counsel, Alison Leary.

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