Wildfire response continues to ride high on legislative agenda

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, Feb. 8, 2019

One of the predominant issues of 2018 has returned as a significant agenda item for the new administration and new legislative session. California’s response to massive wildfires that may or may not have been the responsibility of the state’s electric utilities remains high on the minds of elected officials focused on victims affected by the fires, actions to reduce the risk of those fires and how to attribute liability in the “new abnormal,” as former Governor Jerry Brown labeled our current environment.

Governor Gavin Newsom stepped directly into a leadership role on California’s wildfire response immediately upon swearing into the office by announcing several executive actions on his second day in office to improve state government response to wildfires and other emergencies. Several legislators also stepped in with bills that support victims of past wildfires or better prepare the state to prevent or deal with future fires: 

AB 235 by Assemblymember Chad Mayes (R-Rancho Mirage) creates the California Wildfire Catastrophe Fund financed by participating utilities to reimburse the utility for liability costs that exceed their established insurance levels;

AB 281 by Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D-Fairfield) is a ‘spot bill’ without substantive language, but proposes to have utilities across the state take action to relocate, underground or otherwise enhance the safety of transmission and distribution lines in high fire risk areas; and

SB 209 by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Vacaville) establishes the California Wildfire Warning Center in order to better predict wildfire conditions and provide actionable information to utilities around the state and requires that utilities install additional weather monitoring equipment in high fire threat areas.

While these bills represent a sample of those introduced to date, many other bills are expected on the issue as the bill introduction deadline approaches on February 22nd. CMTA continues to lead an industry-wide coalition to help ensure that actions taken by the Legislature and regulatory agencies take into account the potential impact to industrial ratepayers. 

Read more Energy articles

Capitol updates archive 989898989