Emergency Disaster Relief Program to Support California Utility Customers (R.) 18-03-011

Background

In November 2017 and January 2018, the Commission adopted Resolutions M-4833 and M-4835 respectively, which required the utility companies – electric, gas, communications, and water -- to take reasonable and necessary steps to assist Californians affected by the devastating wildfires in Northern and Southern California. The protections adopted in those resolutions were designed to ensure that Californians who experienced housing or financial crises due to a disaster or state of emergency do not lose access to vital utility services.    

Summary

Resolutions M-4833 and M-4835 required the electric, gas, communications service providers, water, and sewage utilities to assist residents in disaster affected regions by adopting emergency consumer protections upon the declaration of a State of Emergency.

 

The protections put into effect upon a declaration of a state of emergency for electric and gas residential and non-residential utility customers of Commission regulated electric and gas corporations are: 

  • Waive deposit requirements for affected residential customers seeking to reestablish service for one year and expedite move-in and move-out service requests.
  • Stop estimated energy usage for billing attributed to the time period when the home/unit was unoccupied as result of the emergency;
  • Discontinue billing;
  • Prorate any monthly access charge or minimum charges;
  • Implement payment plan options for residential customers;
  • Suspend disconnection for non-payment and associated fees, waive deposit and late free requirements for residential customers;
  • Support low-income residential customers by: (a) freezing all standard and high-usage reviews for the California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) program eligibility in impacted counties until at least the end of the year and potentially longer, as warranted; (b) contact all community outreach contractors, the community based organizations who assist in enrolling hard-to-reach low-income customers into CARE, in impacted counties to help better inform customers of these eligibility changes; (c) partner with the program administrator of the customer funded emergency assistance program for low-income customers and increase the assistance limit amount for the next 12 months for impacted customers; and (d) indicate how the energy savings assistance program can be deployed to assist impacted customers;

The protections put into effect upon a declaration of a state of emergency for residential customers of Commission regulated carriers of last resort and other communications providers include

  • Waiver of one-time activation fee for establishing remote call forwarding, remote access to call forwarding, call forwarding features and messaging services;
  • Waiver of the monthly rate for one month for remote call forwarding, remote access to call forwarding, call forwarding, call forwarding features, and messaging services;
  • Waiver of the service charge for installation of service at the temporary or new permanent location of the customer and again when the customer moves back to the original premises;
  • Waiver of the fee for one jack and associated wiring at the temporary location regardless of whether the customer has an Inside Wire Plan;
  • Waiver of the fee for up to five free jacks and associated wiring for Inside Wiring Plan customer upon their return to their permanent location;
  • A waiver of the fee for one jack and associated wiring for non-Plan customers upon their return to their permanent location.
  • Delay of the California LifeLine Renewal Process and suspension of the de-enrollment of non-usage rules;16 and

The protections put into effect upon a declaration of a state of emergency for residential water and sewer customers include directives to water and sewer utilities that include:  

  • Work cooperatively with affected customers to resolve unpaid bills, and minimize disconnections for non-payment;
  • Waive reconnection or facilities fees for affected customers and suspend deposits for affected customers who must reconnect to the system;
  • Provide reasonable payment options to affected customers;
  • Waive bills for victims who lost their homes.
 

The Public Advocates Office's Role

 

The Public Advocates Office continues to participate in R. 18-03-011 to ensure that every utility service receiving customer is justly treated and billed during and after unfortunate disasters.

 

Timeline

  • On March 22, 2018, the Commission initiated an Order Instituting Rulemaking, (R) 18-03-011 to consider whether the Commission should adopt permanent rules requiring all energy, telecommunications, and water utilities under this Commission's jurisdiction to make available comparable post-disaster consumer protections measures to Californians if certain types of emergency disaster declarations are pronounced.
  • On August 9, 2018, the Commission put forth Decision (D.) 18-08-004 which adopted the measures in Resolutions M-4833 and M-4835 as interim disaster relief emergency customer protections.
  • Workshops were jointly held by the Commission and the Governor's Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) on November 1, 5, and 6 for the Communications Service Providers, Electric and Natural Gas utilities, and the Water and Sewer utilities respectively. The workshops addressed disaster response by the various utilities.

CPUC Proceeding Docket

 

See the CPUC’s Proceeding docket for a record of the proceeding.  Visit the docket to subscribe to updates to this proceeding.     

 

Other Resources

2015 Elected Officials' Guide Gal OES

Resolution M-4833, November 9, 2017

Resolution M-4835, January 11, 2018

Decision Affirming the Provisions of Resolutions M-4833 and M-4835 as Interim Disaster Relief Emergency Customer Protections, August 9, 2018.