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California Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (8-CA-d)

California requires that any proposed project for the construction of transmission line facilities, defined as 200 kV or more, must obtain a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). The CPUC is the primary transmission siting agency in California, but the CPUC also works closely with the California Energy Commission (CEC), as well as local city or county agencies. The CPUC essentially conducts a two-step review process when determining whether to issue a CPCN. The first step is an analysis of the reliability and need for the proposed project. The first step of the process is handled by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The second step consists of an environmental review of the proposed project and determines whether the project will have any adverse environmental impacts. The second step of the CPCN process may be conducted by the CPUC, lead agency, or the CEC, depending on which agency has jurisdiction over the proposed project. If the proposed project is under CEC jurisdiction, the environmental review will be conducted during and according to the Application for Certification (AFC) process. This process is listed in:

Green arrow.PNG 7-CA-a: State Plant Commissioning Process, Application for Certification

If the proposed project is under CPUC jurisdiction, the environmental review process will follow the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requirements. If the CPUC conducts the environmental review then the two-step CPCN process is done simultaneously and the CPUC will be the lead agency during the review. This process is listed in:

Green arrow.PNG 9-CA-a: State Environmental Review Process

General Order No. 131-D

Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity Process

8-CA-d.1 - Application for Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN); Proponent's (or Applicant's) Environmental Assessment (PEA)

The developer must file an application for a CPCN for transmission facilities (200 kV and above). If the proposed project is not under CEC jurisdiction, the application will include a Proponent’s Environmental Assessment (PEA) focusing on the proposed project’s environmental impacts, along with developer proposed mitigation measures and alternatives to the project. The application will identify the developer’s preferred project alternative; however, the CPUC may approve the proposed project, an alternative to the proposed project, or no project at all.

Additionally, the CPCN must comply with the CPUC's Rules of Practice and Procedure 2 through 8, and 15, and 16. The CPCN will include:

  • A detailed description of the proposed transmission facilities, including the proposed transmission line route and alternative routes; proposed transmission equipment; and a proposed schedule for certification, construction, and commencement of operation of the facilities;
  • A map of the proposed routing, showing details of the right-of-way in the vicinity of settled areas, parks, recreational areas, scenic areas, and existing electrical transmission lines within one mile of the proposed route;
  • A statement of facts and reasons why the public convenience and necessity requires the construction and operation of the proposed facility;
  • A detailed statement of the estimated cost of the proposed facilities;
  • Reasons for the adoption of the selected route, including comparison with alternative routes and the advantages and disadvantages of each;
  • A schedule showing the program of right-of-way acquisition and construction;
  • A list of government agencies which have conducted reviews of the proposed route, including a written agency response to the developer's written request for a brief position statement by that agency.

CPCN Step-by-Step Guide

8-CA-d.2 – Publish Notice and Notify Interested Parties

A notice of the filing of an application for CPCN must be given by the developer within 10 days of filing the application. The developer must mail the notice directly to the Planning Commission and the legislative body for each county or city in which the proposed facility would be located, the California Energy Commission, the California Department of Transportation and its Division of Aeronautics, the Secretary of the Resources Agency, the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, the California Department of Health Services, the California State Water Resources Control Board, the appropriate Air Pollution Control District, Regional Water Quality Control Board, State Department of Transportation Regional Office, other California or Federal agencies that would have jurisdiction over the proposed construction, all land owners whose property is within 300 feet of the right-of-way, and other interested parties that have requested notification.

Additionally, the developer must publish public notice not less than once a week for two consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the county(ies) in which the proposed facility will be located and the developer must post a copy of the notice on-site and off-site where the project would be located.

General Order No. 131-D

8-CA-d.3 to 8-CA-d.4– Review the Application for Completeness

No later than 30 days after the filing of the application, the CPUC staff will review the application for completeness and notify the developer in writing of any deficiencies in information and data submitted in the application. The developer must correct any deficiencies within 60 days or explain in writing to the CPUC why the developer is unable to correct the deficiencies. Once deficiencies are corrected, CPUC staff will send a letter to the applicant deeming the application complete.

General Order No. 131-D

8-CA-d.5 – Begin Protest Period

The filing of an application for a CPCN begins a 30 day protest period. During the protest period, anyone may file a protest against the proposed project. Issues raised in protests may include project costs, impacts on plant and animal habitats, elimination of agricultural land, interference with airport flight paths, inconsistency with land use or zoning, visual impacts, diminution of property values, health effects of electric and magnetic fields, choice of route, availability of non-wires alternatives, and impacts on recreational and park areas.

Electric Transmission Siting

8-CA-d.6 to 8-CA-d.8 – Is the Project under CEC Jurisdiction?

If the proposed project is under the jurisdiction of the CEC the environmental review process will be completed as part of the AFC siting process. This process is fully described in:

Green arrow.PNG 7-CA-a: State Plant Commissioning Process, Application for Certification

If the CPUC has jurisdiction over the proposed project the environmental review will be conducted by the assigned commissioner and follow the CEQA process. The CEQA process may be covered if there is an already existing Environmental Information Report. The CEQA process is fully described in:

Green arrow.PNG 9-CA-a: State Environmental Review Process

The environmental review process is conducted concurrently with the rest of the project review process.

General Order No. 131-D

8-CA-d.9 – Are there Protests to the Application?

If there are not any protests during the protest period and the application contains enough information to support a decision, the ALJ may begin to prepare the proposed decision. If there are protests to the application during the 30 day protest period, the application must go through a more detailed process.

Electric Transmission Siting

8-CA-d.10 - Hold Prehearing Conference

If it is preliminarily determined that an evidentiary hearing is needed, or if protests are filed, the ALJ will conduct a prehearing conference (PHC) to identify the issues to be addressed in the proceeding, determine whether evidentiary hearings are needed, and to discuss the schedule for the proceeding.

CPCN Step-by-Step Guide

8-CA-d.11 – Provide Notice of Intent to Seek Compensation

Qualified groups or individuals planning to seek intervenor compensation must file and serve notice within 30 days of the prehearing conference.

Step-by-Step Guide 2006

8-CA-d.12 – Scoping Memo

After the PHC, the assigned commissioner issues a scoping memo determining the issues, schedule, and other procedural matters for the proceeding.

Electric Transmission Siting

8-CA-d.13 – Engage in Discovery

Interested parties may engage in discovery in order to further bolster their protest against the application. Written data requests are the most common method of discovery in CPUC proceedings. Often, the ALJ, assigned commissioner, or the full Commission will set limits on the time for discovery. Discovery will normally be limited to matters other than the environmental issues that will be addressed in the CEQA process. The developer may also use this time to gather evidence addressing any protests against the proposed project.

Electric Transmission Siting

8-CA-d.14 - Hold Evidentiary Hearings

Once discovery has concluded, the ALJ will hold evidentiary hearings. Evidentiary hearings will generally be limited to matters other than the environmental issues addressed in the CEQA process and will be held no sooner than after the draft EIR is issued. If evidentiary hearings are set, the schedule will generally provide for prepared testimony to be filed by the parties, with the evidentiary hearings limited to cross-examination of witnesses sponsoring the written testimony.

Electric Transmission Siting

8-CA-d.15 - Briefs

At the conclusion of the evidentiary hearings, parties file briefs (and, often, reply briefs) regarding the conclusions the CPUC should reach in the proceeding. In opening briefs, parties offer arguments to support their positions, citing applicable facts that have been offered in evidence and received by the CPUC, as well as citing applicable law, and referring to prior CPUC decisions that may be informative. In reply briefs, parties are limited to pointing out errors of law or fact in the opening briefs provided by other parties.

Electric Transmission Siting

8-CA-d.14 - Proposed Decision

Once the two-step review process has concluded, the ALJ prepares a proposed decision (PD) which includes information from the final EIR regarding the proposed project, project alternatives, impacts, and mitigations. The assigned commissioner may concurrently prepare and issue an alternate decision to the PD. Once the PD and the assigned commissioner’s alternate decision, if any, have been issued, other commissioners may subsequently issue alternate decisions. All CPUC decisions, whether a PD or an alternate, must be based upon the evidentiary record, including the final EIR, the testimony of the parties from the filed testimony, and evidentiary hearings.

CPCN Step-by-Step Guide

8-CA-d.15 to 8-CA-d.18- Distribute Proposed Decision to Parties for Comments

The CPUC distributes the proposed decision to the parties involved in the hearings. Most PDs and alternate decisions are subject to 30 days of public review and comment before the CPUC may vote on them.

CPCN Step-by-Step Guide

8-CA-d.19 - Vote on Proposed Decision

The ALJ may amend the PD in response to comments received. Similarly, a commissioner offering an alternate may amend it as well. No sooner than 30 days after the CPUC mails the proposed decision to the parties, the CPUC commissioners may vote on the decision. The Commission may reject or accept a proposed or alternate decision in its entirety, or change it in any way consistent with the law and evidentiary record.

Step-by-Step Guide 2006

8-CA-d.20 – Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity

Once the Commission has voted on the proposed decision, a final decision will be issued and the developer will be issued a CPCN. This final document certifies the created environmental documents and allows the developer to move forward with the project.

General Order No. 131-D

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Contact Information

Edit California Public Utilities Commission
Policy & Planning Division Director 415-703-1997 Visit Website

Edit California Public Utilities Commission
Water & Audits Division Director 415-703-1837 Visit Website