Governor Brown Signs Wildfire Legislation

The following information was shared by our partners at Conservation Strategy Group:

Today, Governor Brown signed critical legislation to help California prevent and recover from catastrophic wildfires.

At the center of the package is SB 901 (Dodd), the final product of the Wildfire Preparedness and Response Legislative Conference Committee. The bill boosts the state’s forest management activities, updates requirements for the maintenance and operation of utility infrastructure to reflect changing climate conditions, and protects ratepayers and utility workers.

SB 901 achieves the following:

  • Requires utilities to implement comprehensive fire prevention plans, including improvements to utility infrastructure.
  • Expedites small landowner incentives and projects to reduce excess fuel and remove dead and dying trees and chaparral.
  • Facilitates access to property to carry out projects to improve overall forest health and resistance to wildfires.
  • Adds a rigorous standard for the California Public Utilities Commission to oversee the allocation of utility wildfire costs and expenses, including consideration of climate change impacts.
  • Authorizes a financing mechanism so utilities can spread out wildfire costs to minimize impacts to ratepayers.
  • Adds worker protections and prohibits utilities from charging their customers for executive compensation.

The Governor stated that, “Wildfires in California aren’t going away, and we have to do everything possible to prevent them. This bill is complex and requires investment – but it’s absolutely necessary.”

A spreadsheet outlining key forest health and fire preparedness bills can be found here.

Governor Brown also issued an Executive Order in May to improve the health of the state’s forests and help mitigate the threats associated with potential destruction. The impacts of wildfire can be deadly and have the potential to hinder the state’s progress towards its climate goals from the associated carbon emissions. Forests serve as the state’s largest land-based carbon sink, drawing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in trees and shrubs and in forest soils. But even a single wildfire can immediately cancel all those benefits.