CSAC-Supported Wildfire Plan Heads to Governor for Signature
July 11, 2019
After an intense week of advocacy, AB 1054 (Holden) passed through the Legislature and now heads to Governor Newsom for signature. The bill is a comprehensive package of policies that protects the rights of fire victims, creates additional safety and oversight measures for utilities and ensures utilities are held accountable for the safety of their systems.
CSAC strongly supported AB 1054 and started this week off with a press conference on the steps of the State Capitol with Up From the Ashes, County Supervisors and wildfire survivors in support of the bill. Additionally, CSAC advocates met with dozens of legislators and staff over the course of the week to advocate for its passage.
“We applaud Governor Newsom and our legislative leaders for their immediate focus on solutions, and deeply appreciate the significant financial investment in wildfire and disaster response included in the budget,” said Graham Knaus, CSAC Executive Director. “AB 1054 is an important step in creating a safer California and helping prevent future wildfires.”
AB 1054 addresses critical outstanding issues specific to safety, including the creation of a division within the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to establish safety expertise and oversight of utilities, and to ensure for compliance with wildfire mitigation plans. The bill also requires utilities to receive a safety certification requiring the establishment of a safety committee on Investor-Owned Utilities (IOUs) boards of directors; links executive compensation to safety performance measures; and requires IOUs to create an aggregate $5 billion safety and wildfire mitigation investment over a period of five years, without a guaranteed rate of return for such expenditures. These measures build on SB 901 (Chapters 626, 2018) and take the next step to enforcing wildfire plans and linking them to utility cost recovery. The best prevention is safety and this bill includes significant requirements and investments by utilities without guaranteed profits for shareholders.
“What we have before us is…imperfect, relentless progress,” said Sonoma County Supervisor and CSAC Second Vice President James Gore of the bill. “This is a great start… and we want to thank the Governor, thank the Legislature for this being one of the final bills we’re reviewing this season.”
AB 1054 also addresses a critical issue of rate payer protections and cost recovery. CSAC strongly supports the framework of this measure that keeps the current legal liability structure intact, and focuses on safety as means for cost recovery. The bill clarifies the CPUC administrative standard that allows for cost recovery from rate payers only if the utility’s conduct was reasonable and in accordance with safety standards. The bill also establishes a wildfire fund to address liability from utility-ignited wildfires and requires meaningful engagement from Investor-Owned Utilities with rate payer protections. The measure required 2/3rds support and passed off the Assembly Floor this morning by a vote of 63-8.