California SB 884 Specifies Overhead Utility Wires Should be Put Underground

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Residents want to know why these utility wires can’t be put under ground.

Update on Power Lines, SB 884, DWP Overtime and “Clean Energy”

On March 29, Circling the News carried the following musing:

One reader, a 35-year resident wrote, “I am appalled that we are allowing a company to hang hordes of black wires spoiling our beautiful skies.  I recently sat at Café Vida on a sunny day to be greeted by sloppily hung wires running along Gelson’s and intruding on the tranquil palms and sky.  Why are we letting this happen to our community’s natural beauty?  We protected the bluffs from the petroleum industry—why are we now letting our natural environment be so defaced?  Was the community consulted, and how can we halt it???”

Two readers responded:

One wrote: “Everyone would prefer not to have power poles and overhead lines. At least 20 years ago I got in touch with LADWP because my neighbors on either side and I wondered if we could remove the two poles and put our power underground. I don’t remember the exact figure they quoted but it was something like $40,000 per foot of pole and well as for the lineal footage of underground service. When I was on the Board of Palisades PRIDE, we also looked into it with the idea of maximizing the clear sidewalk area on Antioch. We got the same kind of answer from LADWP.”

A second reader wrote: “The sloppy cabling along the road and the hanging coil of cable is additional fiber pending installation completion by Spectrum.

“Unfortunately, they add fiber piecemeal, so this corner often has coils of hanging cable. Even when the installation is completed, the amount of cable is bulkier due to the number of separately installed cables. Most of what else is in view is fiber for the cellular providers.

“If someone would pay the enormous cost to underground the lines then the cables wouldn’t be visible.  Short of that, the carriers have every right to put their cables on the poles and are not going to incur the cost to underground new lines.

“It’s kind of ironic that when Verizon proposed adding fiber to their existing cables for FiOS service, that there was such a local outcry that residents couldn’t get fiber service until more than a decade later. Meanwhile, the cellular providers tripled the amount of separately visible communications cables on the poles.”

A new state law says electrical wires should go underground in high fire danger areas.

NEWSOM SIGNS UNDERGROUND WIRE BILL

Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 884 in late September 2022. The bill accelerates the placement of utility power lines underground in California. The bill was introduced by Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) after the origination of several Northern California wildfires were traced to Pacific Gas & Electric power lines and equipment.

The law states that it applies to electrical corporations with 250,000 or more customers. DWP qualifies because it serves four million residents and businesses.

According to the law, “undergrounding projects to be prioritized are to be based on wildfire risk reduction, public safety, cost efficiency and reliability benefits. Only undergrounding projects located in tier 2 or 3 high fire-threat districts or rebuild areas may be considered and constructed as part of the program.”

Pacific Palisades is in tier 2, surrounded by tier 3, which means it qualifies under this law.

Will DWP implement it or will it be too costly: where will the money come from – even higher customer bills?

DWP consumers might remember that in 2018, 306 of its workers took home more than $100,000 in overtime pay, while the agency paid $250 million for overtime.

One security worker was paid $314,000 in overtime, on a listed base pay of $25,000, along with three peers who were paid more than $200,000 overtime each. The policy that allows overtime payouts is a provision in the union contracts which requires a normal shift worked after more than one hour of overtime to be paid at double time, as well as that overtime is not based on working more than 40 hours in a week, but on working time beyond a “normal” shift.

The L.A. Times in a February 2023 story (“Overtime Costs Soared at DWP’s Security Unit Amid Lax Oversight, Watchdog Report Finds”) “Written policies regarding overtime [at the security division] are largely nonexistent,’ the report noted. It also said that ‘individuals self-reported overtime work without any apparent effort by respective managers to assess whether the time was actually worked or whether the use of overtime was appropriate.””

And, “Former DWP Inspector General Sergio Perez told The Times that the absence of policies around overtime ‘may have led to potentially unjustified expenditures of millions of dollars.’”

The story concluded “The city’s latest labor agreement with IBEW 18, approved last year by then-Mayor Eric Garcetti and the DWP board of commissioners, continues to allow workers to earn a double-time rate for normal hours. Under the agreement, some employees can work four hours of overtime and then their regular shift and be paid double-time for all the work.”

But at least DWP is providing clean power, right?

Not exactly. The agency receives less than 60 percent of its energy from renewables (wind, solar, nuclear and hydro),the remaining 40 percent comes from natural gas and coal-fired power.

According to the 2021 LADWP Power Content Label submitted to the State, the power mix for renewables was 35.2 percent (geothermal, hydroelectric, solar and wind) and nuclear 13.7 percent.

The LADWP operates four natural gas-fired generating stations within city boundaries, which combined with other natural gas sources, account for 25.9 percent of capacity. It receives 18.6 percent of its electricity from coal-fired plants in Utah and Arizona but has plans to transition away from coal by 2025.

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One Response to California SB 884 Specifies Overhead Utility Wires Should be Put Underground

  1. Nope – DWP is not affected by this new law at all.
    It affects electrical CORPORATIONS with more than 250,000 customers. The new law defines “large electrical corporations” as defined in Cal Pub Util Code Section 3280, which only regulates investor-owned utility CORPORATIONS.
    Southern California Edison, serving Topanga, Malibu, etc., is affected.
    City of LA is not. DWP is a municipal agency owned by a charter city. It is most certainly NOT a corporation.
    The CPUC regulations almost never affect LA DWP, or any other municipally-owned utility.

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