CSAC Bulletin Article

Governor Signs Several AENR Wildfire Bills

October 3, 2019

Governor Gavin Newsom signed a series of bills on Wednesday to enhance wildfire mitigation, preparedness and response efforts. CSAC supported many of the signed bills, including Senator Mike McGuire’s SB 670 and SB 560. The latter bill is of particular importance as it specifies how utilities must mitigate the impacts of Public Safety Power Shutoffs.

Also in the package of signed legislation were CSAC-supported bills by Senator Bill Dodd, including SB 190, SB 167, SB 247 and SB 209. These bills reflect various recommendations in the Governor’s Strike Force report released in June, and are intended to improve how the administration, the CPUC, local communities, and utilities work together to reduce the incidence and severity of wildfires.

These bills being signed into law come on the heels of CSAC-supported AB 1054; a comprehensive package of policies that protect the rights of fire victims, create additional safety and oversight measures for utilities and ensure that utilities are held accountable for the safety of their systems. The signed legislation complements more than $1 billion in additional funding being added to the state budget to enhance preparedness and wildfire response.

CSAC supported the following bills throughout the legislative process and provided insight about their impacts to counties. All of the following bills will become law effective January 1st, 2020.

SB 190 (Dodd): This bill updates building standards, develops a list of low cost retrofits, requires the creation of a model defensible space program for local governments and would help provide important Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) safety information to building officials and the general public.

SB 167 (Dodd): This bill requires Investor Owned Utilities (IOUs) to consider how Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) and de-energization would impact customers receiving medical baseline allowances, first responders, and health and communication infrastructure in their wildfire mitigation plans.

SB 247 (Dodd): This bill requires IOUs to comply with vegetation management requirements within their wildfire mitigation plans and requires the Wildfire Safety Division, within the Public Utilities Commission, to verify vegetation management work completed by the IOUs to confirm compliance with their submitted wildfire mitigation plans.

SB 209 (Dodd): This bill requires Cal Fire and Cal OES to lead and establish a Wildfire Forecast and Threat Intelligence Integration Center. The Center would serve as the state’s integrated central organizing hub for wildfire forecasting, weather information, and threat intelligence gathering. In addition, the bill requires the center to develop a statewide wildfire forecast and threat intelligence strategy.

SB 560 (McGuire): This bill requires investor owned utilities (IOUs) and publicly owned utilities (POUs) to include procedures for notification of a de-energization to first responders, health care facilities, and operators of telecommunications infrastructure in wildfire mitigation plans. In addition, the bill would also require mobile telephone service providers to coordinate with appropriate community stakeholders in the event of a de-energization.

SB 670 (McGuire): This bill requires telecommunications services providers to give notification to the California Office of Emergency Services (CAL OES) if its telecommunications systems become unable to connect customers to 911 or are unable to deliver emergency notices within 60 minutes of discovering the outage.

In addition to signing several wildfire bills, the Governor also vetoed a CSAC supported bill. AB 394 (Obernolte) would have provided a limited CEQA exemption for egress route projects undertaken by a public agency that were specifically recommended by CAL FIRE to improve the safety of a subdivisions and communities in high or very high fire threat zones. In his veto message of AB 394, the Governor stated “The CEQA exemption provided in this bill is premature and may result in unintended consequences. Without better information on the number, location and potential impacts of future fire safety road construction projects, it is not clear whether statutory changes are needed.”

 

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