California to consider exempting refineries from rolling blackouts

The California Public Utilities Commission Wednesday issued a draft decision that would exempt the state's refineries from rotating electrical outages this summer. Several of California's 12 refineries had asked for waivers after the PUC failed to give them automatic exemptions from blackouts.

Jun 14th, 2001


By the OGJ Online Staff

HOUSTON, June 14 -- The California Public Utilities Commission Wednesday issued a draft decision that would exempt the state's refineries from rotating electrical outages this summer.

In recent weeks several of California's 12 refineries had petitioned the PUC for waivers after a commission rule in April failed to give them automatic exemptions from blackouts.

Last week Gov. Gray Davis urged the PUC to ensure electric power for refiners (OGJ Online, June 8, 2001). Davis noted, "Even a brief disruption of electricity can force a refinery into total shutdown for weeks. As a result of curtailment, the production and supply of critical petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel, and aviation fuels can be jeopardized for several weeks."

PUC Commissioner Carl Wood issued the draft decision, which the commission will consider at a June 28 meeting. Comments on the draft decision are due June 20.

In a companion ruling, Administrative Law Judge Burton Mattson asked a coalition of energy producers, the California Energy Commission, and electric utilities to provide additional information on various elements of the fossil fuel production system. The information would provide the facts necessary for the CPUC to consider possible further exemptions, the commission said.

The California Independent Petroleum Association also has been lobbying the state for reforms that would sustain state oil and gas production (OGJ Online, June 6, 2001).

Wood said, "The draft decision � along with the data requested by the administrative law judge, will allow our agency to respond to the governor's request to minimize any potential disruption of fossil fuel production this summer.

"While the economic impacts caused by disruption of fossil fuel production are potentially devastating, the commission must balance these economic impacts against the potential impacts on public health and safety asserted by applicants in our other exemption process. The decision will be difficult and I appreciate the input from both the governor and legislators."

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