California governor signs 22 bills aimed at reducing wildfire devastation

The bills cover everything from wildfire prevention, mitigation, and response efforts to clean energy initiatives, according to the Governor's office.

Posted: Oct 3, 2019 11:55 AM

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — On Wednesday, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a flurry of bills into law — each one addressing some aspect of wildfire prevention or preparedness, according to the Governor's office.

“This has been a top priority in my Administration since day one, and we were able to work collaboratively and effectively with the Legislature to ensure California has a framework for today and for future generations,” said Governor Newsom. “Given the realities of climate change and extreme weather events, the work is not done but these bills represent important steps forward on prevention, community resilience, and utility oversight. I commend the Legislature for making progress on these difficult issues.”

The 22 bills spring from recommendations in the "Governor's Strike Force report" which was released in June. The report touched on improvements to wildfire prevention and response, policies to roll back climate change through clean energy, allocating damages for catastrophic wildfires, and changing the way California's utility companies operate.

Investigations have found California utility company PG&E's equipment responsible for starting several of the state's most devastating wildfires. After the company filed for bankruptcy, properly compensating wildfire victims has become a near-impossible prospect.

"In July, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed wildfire safety and accountability legislation, which moved our state toward a safer, more affordable and reliable energy future," Newsom's office said. "AB 1054 created a more fair allocation of catastrophic wildfire damages and will hold PG&E accountable for prioritizing safety, and required the California Public Utilities Commission to take a number of actions."

A breakdown for each of the 22 new laws and their intended effects may be read below.


 

Catastrophic Wildfire Prevention and Response

The Strike Force report recommended the administration, the CPUC, local communities, and utilities work together to reduce the incidence and severity of wildfires. The following legislation will step up both community resilience and the state’s response capabilities:

  • AB 38 by Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa) provides mechanisms to develop best practices for community-wide resilience against wildfires through home hardening, defensible space, and other measures.
  • SB 190 by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) includes a specific requirement to develop best models for defensible space and additional standards for home hardening and construction materials to increase the resilience of communities.
  • SB 70 by Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) requires IOUs to include information about consideration of undergrounding utility lines in their Wildfire Mitigation Plans (WMPs).
  • SB 167 by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) requires IOUs to improve their WMPs by including specified requirements to mitigate the impacts of Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS).
  • SB 247 by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) requires increased oversight of the IOUs’ WMPs, enhances requirements for fair wages and improves safety by ensuring a skilled and trained workforce.
  • SB 209 by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) requires establishment of a new weather technology center modeled after the state’s intelligence fusion centers.
  • AB 836 by Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) establishes a program for retrofits of air ventilation systems to create community clean air centers, prioritizing areas with high cumulative smoke exposure burden.
  • AB 661 by Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) requires the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District to prepare a wildfire smoke air pollution emergency plan to serve as an informational source for local agencies and the public during an air pollution emergency caused by wildfire smoke.
  • SB 560 by Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) will mitigate impacts of PSPS.
  • SB 160 by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) will improve engagement with culturally diverse communities for local emergency planning.
  • SB 670 by Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) will improve the coordination of emergency communication systems during 9-1-1 outages.
  • SB 632 by Senator Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) sets a deadline for completion of CAL FIRE’s vegetation management environmental review.
  • AB 1823 by Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) which facilitates fuel reduction and other forest health projects.

Mitigating Climate Change Through Clean Energy Policies

The Strike Force report recommended that, given climate change is a core driver of heightened wildfire risk, the state must continue the transition to clean energy, mitigate risk and build resilience. The following legislation will ensure that California continues to make progress toward its clean energy goals:

  • SB 520 by Senator Robert Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) establishes requirements for an energy provider of last resort given the increasing number of customers receiving power from entities other than IOUs.
  • SB 255 by Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) requires additional reporting to the CPUC of efforts of community choice aggregators to comply with contracting diversity guidelines, and encourages other load-serving entities to participate.
  • SB 155 by Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) improves CPUC oversight of renewable procurement and long-term energy supply contracts.
  • AB 1144 by Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) requires use of a portion of the Self-Generation Incentive Program, which provides incentives for battery storage, to provide additional benefits for community resiliency.
  • AB 1584 by Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) supports load-serving entities’ decisions to take actions that benefit the grid and recognizes resources that serve overall needs.

A More Effective CPUC with the Tools to Manage a Changing Utility Market

The Strike Force report recommended an increased focus on effective safety regulation at the CPUC. The following legislation strengthens utility regulation by expanding the CPUC’s safety review process:

  • SB 550 by Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) provides requirements for additional CPUC safety reviews, conducted together with the CPUC’s review of utility asset transactions.
  • AB 1362 by Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach) which requires posting of information by load serving entities to increase consumer access to information about their energy bills.

Additional Legislation

  • AB 1699 by Assemblymember Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) prohibits a mobile internet service provider from impairing or degrading the lawful internet traffic of first response agencies during an emergency.
  • AB 1513 by Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) makes several technical and clarifying changes to current law which concern programs under the jurisdiction of, and the authority of, the California Public Utilities Commission and other energy programs to address the increasing threat of wildfires and utility liability related to those fires.

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