28 bills boosting wildfire prevention, recovery signed by Gov. Jerry Brown

28 bills boosting wildfire prevention, recovery signed by Gov. Jerry Brown

25 September 2018

Published by https://www.record-bee.com/

USA – Gov. Jerry Brown signed more than two dozen bills into law today relating to wildfire prevention and recovery, including one by North Coast representatives that will create statewide emergency alert rules.

“Bottom line, this legislation will save lives,” state Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) said in a statement. “With the passage of SB 833, statewide emergency alert standards will be developed, training for local emergency managers will be implemented and we will be investing in a more proactive and effective mutual aid response system.”

McGuire said the law was urgently needed with California’s increasing frequency of devastating wildfires. He noted the Carr Fire that destroyed nearly 1,100 homes in Shasta County and killed at least six people reminded people of the necessity of alert systems — especially among victims who did not receive adequate notification.

“The size and scope of wildland fires in California has grown exponentially over the past decade and a universal emergency alert system can’t come soon enough,” McGuire said.

North Coast Assemblyman Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa), who saw three of his bills signed by the governor today, lauded Brown’s approval.

“This is a great day for our state and the 2nd Assembly District,” Wood said in a statement. “The devastating wildfires this past year exposed significant gaps and deficiencies in how we protect our residents and help them face the significant challenges of rebuilding, and for that matter, surviving.”

The bills by Wood will protect homeowners find the best insurance policies to help rebuild in the case of devastating fires, will allow for landowners and Cal Fire to enter agreements for prescribed burns, and will protect consumers from price gouging especially in short-term rental markets during wildfires.

“We will not forget the 58 people we have lost to wildfires this past year, but every bill the governor signed today moves us closer to addressing the significant challenges we face as our climate changes and protecting the lives and property of every California,” said Wood.

New law helps utilities

Brown also signed a measure today allowing utilities to bill their customers to pay for future legal settlements stemming from devastating 2017 wildfires, even if the blazes are blamed on the company’s mismanagement.

The bill is aimed at preventing bankruptcy or other serious financial trouble for Pacific Gas & Electric Co. The nation’s largest utility by revenue faces billions of dollars in liability if investigators determine its equipment caused the Tubbs Fire that destroyed thousands of homes and killed 22 people in Santa Rosa last year.

“Wildfires in California aren’t going away, and we have to do everything possible to prevent them,” Brown said in a statement. “This bill is complex and requires investment — but it’s absolutely necessary.”

Critics call it a bailout for PG&E investors.

The bill creates a special process for the 2017 fires, which caused more than $10 billion in insured losses, by far the most in state history. It seeks to determine how much liability the utility can absorb without triggering severe consequences like bankruptcy, and allows any additional costs to be billed to consumers.

For fires sparked in the future, the bill allows the Public Utilities Commission to consider a variety of factors — including weather conditions, a utility’s efforts to prevent fires and findings of mismanagement — to decide whether electric companies can pass costs to consumers.

PG&E is facing dozens of lawsuits from insurers, which have spent billions settling insurance claims from homeowners.

Courts have ruled that utilities are entirely liable for damage caused by their equipment, even the utility followed all safety precautions. Regulators have required utility investors to shoulder the legal burden for fires caused by mismanagement of electrical equipment.

Ruth Schneider can be reached at 707-441-0520. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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