Electric utilities across Oregon have filed Wildfire Mitigation Plans (WMPs) designed to prevent and mitigate wildfire risk with the Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC). The WMPs are the first to be filed since Senate Bill 762 passed during the 2021 legislative session requiring plans for all electric utilities providing service in Oregon.
Senate Bill 762 established formal standards for electric utility wildfire mitigation plans, including the information utilities are required to include. Plans must identify areas at high-risk for wildfires within the utility’s service territory and actions to minimize those risks, as well as protocols for implementing public safety power shutoffs. Utilities also need to describe how they determined which risk reduction strategies to pursue. The bill required the three investor-owned utilities that are regulated by the PUC to submit their plans to the PUC by the end of 2021 and the PUC to approve them within 180 days after their submission. The remaining electric utilities throughout Oregon that are not regulated by the PUC, which includes cooperatives, People’s Utility Districts, and municipalities, submitted their plans for approval to their local utility governing body ahead of being filed with the PUC.
“The wildfire mitigation plans demonstrate a great deal of work to meet the needs of communities and keep pace with the changing wildfire risks,” said Letha Tawney, PUC Commissioner.
Included in the WMPs are the utilities’ plans to implement Public Safety Power Shutoffs. A PSPS is a measure of last resort to help keep people and communities in high fire-risk areas safe by proactively shutting off electricity during extreme and dangerous weather conditions when energized electrical lines could be damaged and ignite a fast-moving wildfire.
“As we anticipate higher than average temperatures in the next week, we appreciate that Oregon electric utilities have gone through the planning process to prepare for a possible PSPS,” added Commissioner Tawney. “No utility utilizes a PSPS lightly, but their implementation plans are designed to help keep Oregonians informed and safe in extreme fire weather.”