CSAC Bulletin Article

AENR Requesting Feedback on Legislation

January 28, 2021

The Legislature reconvened for the new session on January 4th. The CSAC AENR team has been reviewing and tracking bills as they have been introduced and would like to request feedback on several pieces of legislation in the next few weeks. There have been several bills that have reintroduced from last year. The topics of this legislation include wildfires, homeowners’ insurance, climate change, cannabis, and hazardous waste. If you have feedback or comments on the following proposed legislation, please email Ncronenwett@counties.org.

Wildfire Legislation

SB 55 (Stern),  This bill would prohibit the creation or approval of a new development in a very high fire hazard severity zone or state responsibility area (SRA). The term ‘development’ in the bill is defined as a project containing residential dwellings, including, but not limited to, mobile homes, accessory dwelling units, and junior accessory dwelling units. Projects that are commercial, retail, or industrial use would also be prohibited. Senator Henry Stern authored and supported an identical measure, SB 474, last year which CSAC opposed. You can find CSAC’s opposition letter to SB 474 here. SB 474 died in Assembly Local Government Committee.

SB 63 (Stern), This bill has several proposed provisions that relate to fire prevention, vegetation management, defensible space, fire hazard severity zones. The bill is very extensive and CSAC has summarized the key provisions that are important to counties. These key provisions include: requiring local government to manage a public notice and comment process for the designation of high fire hazard severity zones; changes to cross boundary fuel modification laws; expanded application of fire safe building standards; and, changes to the local assistance grant program in addition to other provisions.

  • The bill would require a city, county, or district responsible for fire protection within a very high fire hazard severity zone to make Cal Fire fire severity designations available for public review and comment. This provision would expand the responsibility of a local agency and is tagged as imposing a state-mandated local program.
  • The bill also makes the following change to laws around fuel modification across property boundaries: Fuel modification beyond the property line may only be required by state law, local ordinance, rule or regulation in order to maintain 100 feet of defensible space from a structure. Fuel modification on an adjacent property shall only be conducted following written consent by the adjacent landowner prior to the fuel modification and shall be in compliance with all applicable state law, regulations, and policies. Any local ordinance may include provision to allocate costs for any fuel modification beyond the property line.
  • The bill would require the State Fire Marshal to included fuel modification beyond the property line  provisions in the state’s model defensible space program.
  • The bill would also require the Director of Forestry and Fire Protection to establish a statewide program to allow qualified entities to support and augment Cal Fire in its defensible space and home hardening assessment and education efforts, and to establish a common reporting platform for participating qualified entities to report defensible space and home hardening assessment data to the department. The bill would repeal this provision on January 1, 2026.
  •  The bill would require the State Fire Marshal and the Department of Housing and Community Development to propose, and the State Building Standards Commission to adopt, expanded application of the fire protection building standards to high fire hazard severity zones. The bill would also require the State Fire Marshal and the Department of Housing and Community Development to consider, if it is appropriate, expanding application of these building standards to moderate fire hazard severity zones.
  • The bill would make changes to the local assistance grant program to support home hardening education, vegetation management along roadways, public education outreach.
  • The bill would require Cal Fire to develop and implement a training program for defensible space and home hardening assessment and public education efforts.

Wildfire Related Homeowner Insurance Legislation

SB 11 (Rubio), This bill would require the Insurance Commissioner to convene a stakeholder group of expert parties to identify ways to measure and incorporate various fire damage mitigation strategies into the homeowners’ insurance ratemaking process and to report the group’s findings to the Legislature no later December 31, 2023.

SB 72 (Rubio), This bill would require the Insurance Commissioner to transmit to the Secretary of the Natural Resources Agency a report that makes geographic recommendations for vegetation management projects based on the commissioner’s analysis of nonrenewal data on policies of residential property insurance and the perceived risks of the industry. In addition, it would require the posting of this report to the California Department of Insurance website.

Climate Change

AB 284 (Rivas), This bill would require the State Air Resources Board, in collaboration with other state agencies, to take specified actions by 2022. These actions include identifying a 2045 climate goal for the state’s working lands, identifying practices, policy incentives, market needs, and potential reductions to barriers that would help achieve the state’s 2045 100 percent clean energy climate goals in the AB 32 Climate Change Scoping Plan. In addition, the bill would require the Air Resources Board to develop standard methods for state agencies to consistently track greenhouse gas emissions reductions, carbon sequestration, and additional benefits from natural and working lands over time.

Cannabis

SB 59 (Caballero), This bill would extend the repeal date of provisional cannabis licenses that can be issued by the State from January 1, 2022 to July 1st 2028. In addition the bill would also reinstate a CEQA exemption for the adoption of a local cannabis ordinance, rule or regulation that requires discretionary review and approval of permits, licenses, or other authorizations to engage in commercial cannabis activity.

Hazardous Waste

AB 1 (C. Garcia), This bill would create the Board of Environmental Safety in the California Environmental Protection Agency to review policies, processes, and programs within California’s hazardous waste laws; propose statutory, regulatory, and policy changes; and decide appeals of certain hazardous waste facility permit decisions and certain financial assurance decisions. The bill would also require the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) to develop and present a state hazardous waste management plan to the newly created Board on 2025 and every three years after. In addition, this bill would require Secretary for Environmental Protection to convene a fee task force with specified membership to review California’s existing fee structure supporting the Hazardous Waste Control Account and the funding structure supporting the Toxic Substance Control Account with a requirement to submit a report to the Legislature by 2023.

This bill is a reintroduction of AB 995 (C. Garcia) from 2020. CSAC had a joint concerns position with RCRC on that measure. That joint concerns letter can be found be here. Our joint letter with RCRC expressed general support for the concept of changing oversight structure, but serious concerns about fee increases and fee exemption repeals contained in the final version of the bill from last year. The measure was vetoed by the Governor who expressed his concern with lack stable funding for the changes proposed that the bill proposed..  

This legislation and policy was also partially addressed in the Governor’s 2021 January Budget. This year’s state budget included $3 million to create a five-member Board of Environmental Safety to set fees through regulation, hear permit appeals and provide strategic guidance to the department. As an interim measure, the Governor’s January budget includes $35 million, one-time, General Fund, to support the Hazardous Waste Control and Toxic Substances Control accounts.

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