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Utility Safety & Enforcement

The PUC’s Role

The Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) requires regulated utilities to proactively manage emerging safety and reliability risks such as earthquakes, wildfire, or cybersecurity threats, as well as offer reliable and secure operation of electric power and natural gas supply infrastructure and thousands of miles of telecommunication lines located across Oregon. As an economic regulator of investor-owned utilities, the PUC's primary role is to decide what rates a utility may charge customers. As part of the ratemaking process, the PUC reviews whether the utility has sufficient revenue to pay for reasonable costs to operate and maintain its systems in a safe manner. This includes costs for infrastructure, vegetation management, and facility maintenance. The PUC is focused on the following:

​In addition to what the investor-owned utilities do regarding safety, the PUC inspects utility lines and facilities, develops safety policies and regulations, conducts audits, investigates incidents, recommends fines for safety violations, and educates utility operators to help ensure compliance with Pipeline Hazardous Materials & Safety Administration (PHMSA), National Electrical Safety Code, and the PUC’s established safety regulations.

During a pipeline safety incident, the PUC conducts an investigation to minimize the possibility of reoccurrence and institutes enforcement action where noncompliance with the safety standard exists. Additionally, the PUC analyzes incident reports filed with the Commission looking for impacts on the public and employee safety. 

​The PUC inspects the state’s utility right-of-ways, which are underground and overhead power lines and poles, to meet applicable NESC and OAR codes. ​​​

​The three regulated electric utilities (Portland General Electric, PacifiCorp, dba Pacific Power, and Idaho Power Company) are required to file reliability reports annually. These reports are reviewed and analyzed by the PUC to determine if the utilities are operating and making investments to provide reliable services to customers. View the most recent Seven-Year Electric Service Reliability Study​ for more information.

The PUC reviews all major outage reports and investigates complaints regarding power quality. These all provide insights into the reliability of the electric utility’s system.​​​

​The PUC is increasing its pressure on utilities to strengthen defenses to cyber-attacks. Utilities must protect customer information and also detect, and hopefully prevent, cyber-attacks on their systems. Security also includes physical security of infrastructure such as control centers and substations. The PUC monitors utility compliance with energy security regulations issued by federal agencies, such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Department of Transportation, and the Department of Energy. ​​

​The PUC works proactively with utilities to ensure investments are made in critical energy infrastructure, emergency response, and system recovery. The goal is energy infrastructure that continues to provide service, or can be quickly restored to customers, in the event of natural or manmade disasters. The major disaster on the mind of most in the Pacific Northwest is a Cascadia earthquake, although we did learn in 2020 that wildfires are a relevant concern as well. The utilities are required to make investments in upgrading critical facilities to mitigate their vulnerability to earthquakes, wildfires, and more.​​

​The PUC is the liaison between energy and telecommunications utilities, and the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) ​​during emergency situations. Specifically, we gather and report the status of utility operations, such as customer outages and estimated restorations times, to OEM. This is information that can be used by the Governor to establish priorities for restoration or deployment of resources. Additionally, the PUC serves as a conduit to the state when utilities need state assets or assistance.  ​

The PUC enforces Oregon Administrative Rules for preventing damage to underground utilities. The rules facilitate a critical statewide one-call system administered by the Oregon Utility Notification Center. Using the nationwide 811 number is the first step to get underground facilities located and marked in order to avoid damaging petroleum or natural gas pipes, electric or fiber optic cable, telephone lines, or a water main. 

The PUC orders enforcement actions against excavators that don’t use the one-call system and utility service providers that don’t provide location and marking services. View enforcement information related to Notification Center complaints. 

If you would like to submit a complaint about someone not using the one-call system or you're having issues with a utility service provider not locating and marking your utilities, please contact the PUC's Consumer Services team by phone at 503-378-6600 or 800-522-2404 or by email​.    ​

PUC Partnerships

Oregon Utility Notification Center (OUNC) – Call 811 Before You Dig

Call 811 at least two business days before starting any digging project. By calling, the OUNC will coordinate with your utility service providers to mark the location of your electric, natural gas, communications, and water services to avoid damaging underground utilities. Be smart -- Call 811 whether planning to dig yourself or hiring a professional. 

The PUC holds a position on the OUNC board of directors, a group dedicated to developing Oregon Administrative Rules on the notification of excavation activities, marking underground facilities, and safely digging around underground utilities. Learn more.

Oregon Utility Safety Committee (OUSC)

The PUC sponsors the OUSC, which is made up of representatives of public and privately-owned electric, natural gas, telephone, and cable television utility service providers to propose recommendations on utility safety-related issues.

Oregon Joint Use Association (OJUA)

The OJUA is an industry advisory group nationally recognized as a leader in how government and industry works together. Specifically the OJUA was established by the Oregon Legislature to advise the PUC on safety issues related to utility poles.