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PA Bulletin, Doc. No. 04-2183



Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Order

[34 Pa.B. 6550]

Public Meeting held
November 18, 2004

Commissioners Present: Wendell F. Holland, Chairperson; Robert K. Bloom, Vice Chairperson; Glen R. Thomas; Kim Pizzingrilli

   Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Revision of 52 Pa. Code Chapter 57 pertaining to adding Inspection and Maintenance Standards for the Electric Distribution Companies; Doc. No. L-00040167

Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Order

By the Commission:

   On May 7, 2004, the Commission entered a Final Rulemaking Order1 at L-00030161 which amended the Electric Distribution Companies' (EDCs) reporting requirements found at 52 Pa. Code § 57.195. The Final Rulemaking Order improved the Commission's ability to monitor EDC service reliability.

   Specifically, the Commission now receives quarterly and annual reliability reports as opposed to only annual reports. This allows the Commission to better track a company's performance and contact the company earlier regarding corrective action. The rulemaking also increased the amount of information an EDC must report to the Commission. EDCs must now provide the causes of outages and percentages categorized by type as well as an annual report of each company's plans for the upcoming year's inspection and maintenance of transmission systems including: (1) vegetation management; (2) distribution and substation maintenance activity; and (3) capital improvement projects. The EDC must report its own standards regarding vegetation management and other inspection and maintenance procedures. The EDC must report whether it is meeting its goals regarding inspection, maintenance and repair and, if not, explain what efforts are being made to do so in the future.

   The Commission also determined that, based on more recent experience and information, the issue of whether EDCs should be subject to specific inspection and maintenance standards should be evaluated.

   In particular, new information arising out of the blackout in August 2003 formed a basis for evaluating the need for inspection and maintenance standards. One of the causes of the blackout was the failure to adequately manage tree growth along transmission lines. Final Report on the August 14 Blackout in the U.S. and Canada, U.S.--Canada Power System Outage Task Force, pp. 17, 57-64 (April 2004). In the wake of the blackout, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) commissioned a study of utility vegetation management practices. This led to a report entitled ''Utility Vegetation Management Final Report'' prepared by CN Utility Consulting, LLC and released by FERC in March, 2004. The report concluded, among other things, that the ''[c]urrent oversight of UVM [ utility vegetation management ] activities by appropriate agencies or organizations is overwhelmingly inadequate'' (Report, p. 68).

   To remedy this inadequacy, the report recommended that oversight organizations should work with the utilities, the utility vegetation management industry and other stakeholders to develop measurable and achievable program objectives to identify what can be done to reduce the likelihood of a recurrence of tree and power line conflicts. (Report at 68-69).

   Furthermore, the Public Utility Code at 66 Pa.C.S. § 2802(20) provides:

(20)  Since continuing and ensuring the reliability of electric service depends on adequate generation and on conscientious inspection and maintenance of transmission and distribution systems, the independent system operator or its functional equivalent should set, and the Commission shall set through regulations, inspection, maintenance, repair and replacement standards and enforce those standards.

   In view of this provision, and in light of the national attention to inspection and maintenance standards with particular regard to vegetation management procedures, a rulemaking proceeding is hereby initiated at this docket to consider revising 52 Pa. Code, Chapter 57, relating to electric distribution reliability.

   The Commission will be considering the establishment of inspection, maintenance, repair and replacement standards under Chapter 57 of the Pennsylvania Code. This advance notice solicits comments from electric distribution companies and other parties of interest.

   Comments are requested on the following topics:

   1.  Whether it is appropriate for the Commission to adopt specific inspection and maintenance standards.

   2.  Whether standards should be placed in the regulations which are specific to each individual EDC, or whether all EDCs should be held to the same standard, and how would this be monitored and regulated.

   3.  What the standards should be regarding vegetation management practices, pole inspections, transmission and distribution line inspections, substations, transformers, reclosers, and other types of inspection and maintenance practices.

   4.  Whether standards should be established for repair and maintenance of electric distribution company equipment or facilities that are critical for system reliability.

   5.  Whether there should be automatic civil penalties written into the regulations for failure to meet standards for more than three consecutive quarters or some other reasonable time period, depending upon the type of inspection and maintenance that is at question.

   Comments may be filed by any interested person or on behalf of an entity, and each comment should clearly indicate: (1) the numerical designation of the subject section(s) if applicable; (2) the reason for the proposed change(s); and (3) specific proposed language for the regulation(s). These three factors are vital to enable the Commission to give due consideration to each comment received.

   Due to the comprehensive nature of a rulemaking and the fact that there are no pre-existing inspection and maintenance standards, interested parties will be given 60 days from the date of publication of the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Pennsylvania Bulletin for the submission of an original and 15 copies of comments and 90 days from the date of publication to submit an original and 15 copies of reply comments. Since the comment periods are generous, no extensions will be granted for the filing of comments. An electronic copy of all comments should be electronically mailed to Elizabeth Barnes at

   The contact persons are Blaine Loper, Bureau of Conservation, Economics and Energy Planning, (717) 787-3810 (technical) and Elizabeth Barnes, Law Bureau, (717) 772-5408 (legal).

   This is an advance notice of proposed rulemaking and is in addition to the normal rulemaking procedures for publication and comment established under the act of July 31, 1968 (P. L. 769, No. 240), known as the Commonwealth Documents Law.


It Is Ordered That,

   1.  A rulemaking proceeding is hereby initiated at this docket to consider the revision of the regulations appearing in 52 Pa. Code, Chapter 57, relating to electric distribution reliability.

   2.  An Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding revision of regulations appearing in 52 Pa. Code, Chapter 57 be published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

   3.  Interested parties shall have 60 days from the date of publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin of the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to file written comments and 90 days from the date of publication to file reply comments.

   4.  Comments should, where appropriate, address the five issues identified in this Order and should include, where applicable, a numerical reference to the existing regulation(s) which the comment(s) address, proposed language for revision, and a clear explanation for the recommendation.

   5.  Interested parties should file an original plus 15 copies of each comment to the Secretary, Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, P. O. Box 3265, Harrisburg, PA 17105-3265.

   6.  An electronic copy of the comments should be electronically mailed to Elizabeth Barnes, Assistant Counsel, at, and these comments in turn will be placed on the Commission's website for public viewing at

   7.  The contact persons for this rulemaking are Blaine Loper (Bureau of Conservation, Economics and Energy Planning, (717) 787-3810 (technical) and Elizabeth Barnes, Law Bureau, (717) 772-5408 (legal).


   1 On September 18, 2004, the Final Rulemaking Order was published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin at 34 Pa.B. 5135; thus, the regulations stemming from that Order are effective as of September 18, 2004.

[Pa.B. Doc. No. 04-2183. Filed for public inspection December 10, 2004, 9:00 a.m.]

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