Advocacy resulted in the restoration of hundreds of millions of dollars of work for IBEW 1245 members
In the wake of the largest wildfire season in California’s recorded history, major investments are critically needed to mitigate the risk of future fires.
As part of its last general rate case application, PG&E proposed to ramp up its efforts to reduce wildfire risk through system hardening, which is work that is performed by IBEW 1245 members. A broad group of stakeholders — including PG&E, the Coalition of California Utility Employees (aka CUE, which includes IBEW 1245 as well as other utility union locals), and several other advocacy organizations — agreed on a settlement to PG&E’s proposed funding for wildfire-related system hardening, to the tune of $584 million for 2020, $916 million for 2021 and $1.151 billion for 2022. The stakeholders submitted the settlement agreement to the CPUC in December 2019.
Nearly a year later, the CPUC released its proposed decision on PG&E’s general rate case. Despite recognizing how critical PG&E’s wildfire prevention work is and despite the broad stakeholder support for funding this critical work, the proposed decision slashed the settlement agreement’s money for system hardening work by 36% in 2021 and by 49% in 2022. The CPUC rationalized the cuts by claiming that it didn’t think PG&E could do all the work it proposed to do. But that’s nonsense – PG&E has already been ramping up system hardening, and Local 1245 members have been working around the clock to meet these ambitious goals. In fact, by the end of September, our members had already surpassed PG&E’s 2020 target for overhead system hardening.
In written and oral comments to the CPUC, Rachael Koss, the regulatory attorney representing CUE, expressed our astonishment that the CPUC would slash funding for wildfire system hardening. The CPUC has clear directives from the California legislature and governor to invest in hardening the state’s electrical infrastructure, and it is inconceivable that the CPUC would not fund PG&E’s efforts to do so. As PG&E’s regulator, the CPUC’s job isn’t to just evaluate what it thinks PG&E might be able to do; it should also tell PG&E what it must do, and hold PG&E accountable for doing it.
The CPUC listened. About a month after the CPUC released its proposed decision (and just one day before the CPUC would vote on it), the CPUC released a revised proposed decision, which fully restored the settlement agreement’s funding for wildfire-related system hardening. And on December 3, the CPUC approved the higher amount. That’s an additional $884 million of system hardening work during the next two years that IBEW 1245 members will be performing.
This effective advocacy by our regulatory attorney Rachel Koss is the latest in a series of legislative and administrative actions that IBEW 1245 has taken on to support our members at PG&E. Stay tuned for full rundown of Local 1245’s most notable victories over the past few years.