Commission on Catastrophic Wildfire Cost and Recovery Releases Draft Report on Utility Liability Reform
May 30, 2019
The Commission on Catastrophic Wildfire Cost and Recovery (Commission) released a draft report with recommendations to the Legislature related to issues surrounding catastrophic wildfire costs and the reduction of damages. The Commission was created as part of SB 901 (Dodd, 2018) and was tasked with providing a report addressing wildfire issues and recommendations for changes to laws related to the socialization of wildfire costs to the Administration and Legislature by July 1 with input from stakeholders across California. CSAC staff has been actively engaged in all the Commission meetings across the state and has consistently opposed major changes to utility liability law, including inverse condemnation. See CSAC’s April Comments to the Commission here and a media statement released today by CSAC and coalition partners here.
The draft report includes proposed recommendations to change our current liability structure, specially calling for replacement of the current liability applications of inverse condemnation. In addition, the report includes other recommendations, including the establishment of a wildfire fund that would help wildfire victims, changes to insurance laws and ways to reduce the risk of wildfire, including development fees for new construction in the Wildland Urban Interface Area (WUI).
In response to the Commission’s release of the report, the Governor, Speaker of the Assembly, and Senate President Pro Tem issued a joint statement suggesting that they will not make any changes to inverse condemnation in the current legislative session. However, the joint statement did support focusing on other more immediate solutions to the wildfire issue including mitigation, improving emergency response, and infrastructure hardening. CSAC is part of a broad coalition of other local government associations, victim’s groups, and insurance industry advocates that are advocating keeping the current utility liability standard in place in order to help protect victims and rebuild communities.
The Commission will meet on Friday June 7 at 10 a.m. in Sacramento City Hall to consider adopting the draft executive summary as its final recommendation. For more information about the meeting please visit the Commission’s website here.