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Governor Newsom signs bills aimed at limiting fire danger

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California is adopting nearly two dozen new laws aimed at preventing and fighting the devastating wildfires that have charred large swaths of the state in recent years, killing scores and destroying a Sierra foothills city last fall.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced signing the 22 bills Wednesday, saying several will also help the state meet its clean energy goals.

He said they largely enact recommendations from a June report by a governor's task force and build on $1 billion in the state budget devoted to preparing for wildfires and other emergencies. 

Included in the legislation signed by the governor was Senate Bill 70 by Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) which requires utilities to include information about consideration of undergrounding utility lines in their Wildfire Mitigation Plans.

In a statement following the signing Sen. Nielsen said, "What great news for the people of California! Requiring utilities to develop plans to underground electrical distribution lines will help protect lives and properties. Wildfires are more prevalent now and safeguards must be set in place to protect residents."

Several of the new laws encourage communities to adopt new standards for making homes and their surroundings more fire resistant. Others address the precautionary power shutoffs that utilities have begun using more frequently to prevent fires sparked by electric lines.

The Governor's office divided the new laws into four categories:

Wildfire Prevention and Response:

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 IOU's' 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

Clean Energy Policies:

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.

Tools to Manage Changing Utility Market:

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.