Public Utility Commission of Texas

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Power Line Inspection and Safety

Background

All electric utilities, municipally owned utilities, or electric cooperatives that own or operate overhead transmission or distribution lines in the state of Texas are required to provide information to the public about the safety of their overhead equipment. In May 2019, the 86th Texas Legislature enacted House Bill 4150 that created reporting requirements regarding power line inspection and safety for these entities. The focus of these reports is on the vertical clearance and safety of power lines and safety training provided to employees.

To implement the requirements of HB 4150, the Commission adopted a new rule in February 2020. Certain entities are now required to file up to three new reports, as discussed below: annual reports, five-year reports, and employee training reports.

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Annual Reports

Every year, each electric utility, municipally owned utility, or electric cooperative that owns or operates overhead transmission or distribution facilities in Texas must file a report on the safety of those facilities. Those that operate overhead transmission equipment at 60,000 volts or higher must report the existence of non-compliant vertical clearances on their systems. Additionally, those that operate overhead transmission equipment or distribution equipment at more than 1,000 volts must report injuries and fatalities associated with non-compliance and the steps taken to prevent recurrence in the future. The annual report is due May 1st each year.

Five-Year Reports

Every five years, each electric utility, municipally owned utility, or electric cooperative that owns or operates overhead transmission facilities at 60 kilovolts or higher in Texas must report the percentage of its transmission system that has been inspected for compliance with the National Electrical Safety Code's (NESC) requirements for vertical clearances. They must also report the percentage of their system anticipated to be inspected in the next five-year period. Electric utilities, municipally owned utilities, or electric cooperatives that solely operate distribution facilities are not required to file this report. The next round of reports is due May 1, 2025.

Training Reports

Each electric utility, municipally owned utility, or electric cooperative that owns or operate overhead transmission or distribution lines in Texas is required to provide summaries of the training programs that it uses to instruct personnel on hazard recognition and compliance with the clearance and construction requirements of the NESC. They were required to file this one-time report on May 1, 2020. Additionally, they are required to file updated reports within 30 days of any material change to their training programs or documents.

2020 Reporting Results

There are a total 162 different electric utilities, municipally owned utilities, or cooperatives that own or operate transmission or distribution facilities in the state of Texas. Not all these entities were required to file all three reports. Ultimately, the Commission achieved a nearly 97% compliance rate for the first year of reporting. However, not all entities that filed a report initially met all reporting requirements. There are three categories of reporting completeness identified by staff:

  • On time, complete: filed complete reports by May 1, 2020.
  • Late, complete: filed complete reports but after the May 1, 2020 deadline.
  • Deficient: filed incomplete reports either on time or late.

Commission staff sent letters to all entities with late filings cautioning them to ensure on-time filings for future reporting years. In total, staff delivered 55 warning letters, some to the same entity, for multiple late-filed reports.

Additionally, staff sent compliance follow-up letters to entities with deficient reports. In total, staff sent 42 compliance letters requiring entities to file revised reports with complete information within 30 days. As of May 15, 2021, approximately 60% of those with deficient reports had filed revisions correcting the deficiencies identified by staff.

The following charts depict the statistics for each of the three reports:

Importantly, one entity reported an injury or fatality related to vertical clearance of its overhead transmission or distribution equipment. The one instance was reported to be related to a clearance conflict created by a customer's construction of a structure in the entity's existing right of way. The entity relocated its facilities to mitigate future safety concerns.

By the end of May 2021, staff in the Legal Division will contact the last remaining deficient entities to inform them that an enforcement case will be opened as soon as in two weeks if they continue to fail to file the required revisions.