Governor Newsom Signs Bills to Enhance Wildfire Mitigation, Preparedness and Response Efforts

Today, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a series of bills aimed at improving California’s wildfire prevention, mitigation and response efforts and continuing progress toward our clean energy goals. The 22 bills cover various areas for a comprehensive approach to these issues, and reflect recommendations in of the Governor’s Strike Force report released in June. The report provided guidance on how the state can build a safe, reliable and affordable energy future.

“This has been a top priority in my Administration since day one, and we were able to work collaboratively and effectively with the Legislature to ensure California has a framework for today and for future generations,” said Governor Newsom. “Given the realities of climate change and extreme weather events, the work is not done but these bills represent important steps forward on prevention, community resilience, and utility oversight. I commend the Legislature for making progress on these difficult issues.”

The Governor’s Strike Force report included the following areas of focus:

  • Catastrophic Wildfire Prevention and Response  
  • Mitigating Climate Change through Clean Energy Policies  
  • Fair Allocation of Catastrophic Wildfire Damages  
  • A More Effective California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) with the Tools to Manage a Changing Utility Market  
  • Holding PG&E Accountable and Building a Utility that Prioritizes Safety 

Below is a list of bills the Governor signed to address recommendations made in the report, producing tangible results for all Californians.

Catastrophic Wildfire Prevention and Response 

The Strike Force report recommended the administration, the CPUC, local communities, and utilities work together to reduce the incidence and severity of wildfires. The following legislation will step up both community resilience and the state’s response capabilities:

  • AB 38 by Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa) provides mechanisms to develop best practices for community-wide resilience against wildfires through home hardening, defensible space, and other measures.
  • SB 190 by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) includes a specific requirement to develop best models for defensible space and additional standards for home hardening and construction materials to increase the resilience of communities.
  • SB 70 by Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) requires IOUs to include information about consideration of undergrounding utility lines in their Wildfire Mitigation Plans (WMPs).
  • SB 167 by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) requires IOUs to improve their WMPs by including specified requirements to mitigate the impacts of Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS).
  • SB 247 by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) requires increased oversight of the IOUs’ WMPs, enhances requirements for fair wages and improves safety by ensuring a skilled and trained workforce. 
  • SB 209 by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) requires establishment of a new weather technology center modeled after the state’s intelligence fusion centers. 
  • AB 836 by Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) establishes a program for retrofits of air ventilation systems to create community clean air centers, prioritizing areas with high cumulative smoke exposure burden.
  • AB 661 by Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) requires the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District to prepare a wildfire smoke air pollution emergency plan to serve as an informational source for local agencies and the public during an air pollution emergency caused by wildfire smoke.
  • SB 560 by Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) will mitigate impacts of PSPS.
  • SB 160 by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) will improve engagement with culturally diverse communities for local emergency planning.
  • SB 670 by Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) will improve the coordination of emergency communication systems during 9-1-1 outages. 
  • SB 632 by Senator Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) sets a deadline for completion of CAL FIRE’s vegetation management environmental review.
  • AB 1823 by Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) which facilitates fuel reduction and other forest health projects.

Mitigating Climate Change Through Clean Energy Policies 

The Strike Force report recommended that, given climate change is a core driver of heightened wildfire risk, the state must continue the transition to clean energy, mitigate risk and build resilience. The following legislation will ensure that California continues to make progress toward its clean energy goals:

  • SB 520 by Senator Robert Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) establishes requirements for an energy provider of last resort given the increasing number of customers receiving power from entities other than IOUs. 
  • SB 255 by Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) requires additional reporting to the CPUC of efforts of community choice aggregators to comply with contracting diversity guidelines, and encourages other load-serving entities to participate.   
  • SB 155 by Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) improves CPUC oversight of renewable procurement and long-term energy supply contracts.
  • AB 1144 by Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) requires use of a portion of the Self-Generation Incentive Program, which provides incentives for battery storage, to provide additional benefits for community resiliency.
  • AB 1584 by Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) supports load-serving entities’ decisions to take actions that benefit the grid and recognizes resources that serve overall needs. 

A More Effective CPUC with the Tools to Manage a Changing Utility Market  

The Strike Force report recommended an increased focus on effective safety regulation at the CPUC. The following legislation strengthens utility regulation by expanding the CPUC’s safety review process:

  • SB 550 by Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) provides requirements for additional CPUC safety reviews, conducted together with the CPUC’s review of utility asset transactions.  
  • AB 1362 by Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach) which requires posting of information by load serving entities to increase consumer access to information about their energy bills.

Additional Legislation 

  • AB 1699 by Assemblymember Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) prohibits a mobile internet service provider from impairing or degrading the lawful internet traffic of first response agencies during an emergency.   
  • AB 1513 by Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) makes several technical and clarifying changes to current law which concern programs under the jurisdiction of, and the authority of, the California Public Utilities Commission and other energy programs to address the increasing threat of wildfires and utility liability related to those fires.

In July, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed wildfire safety and accountability legislation, which moved our state toward a safer, more affordable and reliable energy future. AB 1054 created a more fair allocation of catastrophic wildfire damages and will hold PG&E accountable for prioritizing safety, and required the California Public Utilities Commission to take a number of actions.  

Governor Newsom has made wildfire prevention and mitigation a top priority since taking office. The Governor proactively declared a state of emergency to fast-track 35 critical forest-management projects to protect more than 200 of California’s highest-risk communities and redirected National Guard members from the border to undertake fire prevention activities throughout the state. The governor also included $1 billion in additional funding in the state budget to enhance our state’s preparedness and expand our capacity to respond to emergencies. The budget included 13 new fire engines. He also:

  • Invested $127.2 million to expand CAL FIRE’S fleet with C-130 air tankers and modified Black Hawk helicopters for nighttime firefighting operations,
  • Signed an executive order authorizing the surge of almost 400 seasonal firefighters to CAL FIRE this year,
  • Began overdue modernization of California’s 9-1-1 system,
  • Announced the selection of the first two contracts for the Wildfire Innovation Sprint, intended to modernize the way the state contracts for acquisition and development of technology systems, with the goal of getting cutting-edge firefighting technology in the hands of emergency responders by next fire season,
  • Supporting local fire operations, including $2 million for the Butte County Fire Department to maintain its current level of service and continue operation of one year-round fire station through its cooperative agreement with CAL FIRE,
  • Partnered with the federal government to secure state access to remote sensor-based technology to detect wildfire ignitions, including securing delegation of authority from the Secretary of Defense to fly infrared equipped Unmanned Aerial System in support of CAL FIRE missions,
  • Invested $210 million Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund for forest health and fire prevention projects and programs to enable CAL FIRE to complete more fuel reduction projects and increase the pace and scale of fire prevention, and
  • Developed and implemented the Forestry Corps Program, to operate four Forestry Corps crews that will undertake forest health and hazardous fuel reduction projects in areas of high fire risk.
  • During his State of the State Address, the Governor announced the creation of a Strike Force to develop a comprehensive strategy within 60 days, to address the destabilizing effects of catastrophic wildfires on California’s energy future.

Jonathan Gudel

Jonathan Gudel is a Public Information Officer for the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES). Since joining Cal OES, he has assisted in the response and recovery efforts of the Aliso Canyon Gas Leak, the state's historic drought, the Oroville Dam Emergency Spillway Incident, unprecedented winter storms in 2017, the October (Sonoma County) and December (Santa Barbara County) 2017 wildfires, and statewide wildfire siege in 2018 . Previously, he worked in the newspaper industry for 12 years.

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