California Burning: Utility Wildfire Prevention and Response
On Friday, January 26, Assemblymember Jim Wood Will Join Senators McGuire and Dodd and Assemblymember Levine, who represent communities ravaged by the wildfires in October, to co-host the subcommittee hearing. We encourage members of the public to attend. The meeting will be held at Santa Rosa City Hall, Main Council Auditorium, 100 Santa Rosa Avenue, in Santa Rosa, and will begin at 10:00 am.
The legislators will call on utility representatives, regulators and ratepayer advocates to discuss industry best practices for addressing wildfire prevention, mitigation and response, ratepayer and public expectations, setting and implementation of safety policies, and oversight.
Assemblymember Wood, D-Healdsburg, said, “The wildfires throughout California have devastated people’s lives, whether it’s the home they raised their families in or the businesses that were the heart of our economy. When we look at what role the utilities played in these horrific fires, we need to be sure that they are following the very best practices and procedures, and if not, what should be done to ensure that future families and businesses are better protected.”
“The wildfires that swept Northern and Southern California communities and woodlands as 2017 came to a close have raised many questions,” said Senator Hill, D-San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. “While the investigations of the fires’ cause are not yet complete, the public has a right to know what utilities’ safety priorities and practices are, how they set them and whether serious consideration has been given to successful practices by others in the industry. California ratepayers should not have to wait months or years to find out what utilities are doing to protect the safety and security of our electrical grid and the communities it serves.”
Senator McGuire, D-North Bay/North Coast, said, “Thousands of North Bay residents have lost their homes and businesses and many escaped these devastating fires with nothing but the clothes on their backs. While there is an active fire investigation taking place, it is imperative that we review current utility safety measures and advance the conversation about potential enhancements which will better protect our communities in the years to come. We look forward to welcoming Senator Hill back to the North Bay and greatly appreciate his presence and support during the devastating October firestorm.”
Senator Dodd, D-Napa, said, “As we look at ways to better protect homes and lives from wildfires, it’s critical that we prevent fires from starting in the first place. This year I’ll be working with my colleagues in the Legislature to push for policies to help prevent wildfires caused by electrical lines. We need to see best practices adopted across the state.”
Assemblymember Levine, D-Marin County, said, “Legislative oversight brings accountability to the utilities’ practices and behavior. We must be proactive as there is no time to waste to protect Californians from potential dangers like the wildfires that claimed too many lives and destroyed thousands of our neighbors’ homes.”
The hearing follows an earlier wildfire panel that Senator Hill, as chair of the Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications Subcommittee on Gas, Electric and Transportation Safety, held in November 2015. The hearing, “Wildfires Caused by Power Lines,” examined what electric utilities had done in the years following California’s 2007 fire siege to improve safety.