Sacramento, California - In the wake of utility-directed power shutoffs that impacted nearly two million Californians, Governor Gavin Newsom today demanded that Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) be held accountable. The Governor urged PG&E to provide affected customers an automatic credit or rebate of $100 per residential customer and $250 per small business as some compensation for their hardships. Governor Newsom also sent a letter to California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) President Marybel Batjer confirming that the Commission will be conducting a comprehensive inquiry and review of PG&E’s planning, implementation and decision-making process failures.
“Californians should not pay the price for decades of PG&E’s greed and neglect,” said Governor Newsom. “PG&E’s mismanagement of the power shutoffs experienced last week was unacceptable. We will continue to hold PG&E accountable to make radical changes – prioritizing the safety of Californians and modernizing its equipment.”
In July, the Governor signed AB 1054, which established new requirements for PG&E to improve safety and address decades of mismanagement. In his letter to President Batjer, the Governor asked the CPUC to increase its scrutiny of PG&E’s progress on long overdue actions required under AB 1054 to make its infrastructure resilient to wildfires to avoid Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) events.
Since the first days of his administration, Governor Newsom has taken bold action to protect Californians from wildfires:
- Expedited wildfire prevention projects to protect 200 of California’s most wildfire-vulnerable communities.
- Awarded $20 million in block grants to improve forest health and increase fire resiliency.
- Joined with Governors Kate Brown of Oregon and Jay Inslee of Washington in requesting President Trump double the federal government’s financial investment in managing federal forestlands in California, Washington and Oregon.
- Deployed the California National Guard to assist CAL FIRE with emergency hazardous fuels-management projects.
- Launched an “Innovation Procurement Sprint” to get the most cutting-edge tools into the field and tackle the wildfire threat, resulting in two pilot projects to help modernize wildfire prevention and response.
- Partnered with XPRIZE to design an incentive prize for innovation to battle wildfires.
- Secured delegation of authority from the Secretary of Defense to fly Cal Guard’s infrared equipped Unmanned Aerial System in support of CAL FIRE missions.
- Partnered with the federal government to secure state access to satellite-based technology to detect wildfire ignitions.
- Accelerated publication of new Emergency Alert and Warning Guidelines, ahead of wildfire season.
The Governor worked with the Legislature to enact laws that will make California more resilient to wildfires and hold utilities accountable. The bills reflect the recommendations from the Governor’s Strike Force report:
- AB 1054 by Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) holds PG&E accountable for prioritizing safety and requires the California Public Utilities Commission to take a number of actions to require our investor-owned utilities make investments in wildfire prevention and response. AB 1054’s provisions include:
- Improve the investor-owned utilities’ assessment of wildfire risk and match increased investments to risk reduction through the Wildfire Mitigation Plan process.
- Improve safety expertise, by creating a new wildfire safety division at the CPUC, which will transition to a separate Office of Energy Infrastructure Safety in the Natural Resources Agency in two years. (Combined with AB 111, AB 1054’s companion bill)
- Create the California Wildfire Safety Advisory Board, a panel of world-class experts in wildfire risk and utility infrastructure, to advise the wildfire safety division to ensure the strongest possible standards are put in place, and the utilities are held to them.
- Ensure oversight of the utilities’ plans, require utilities to invest in wildfire prevention and eliminate shareholder profit on $5 billion of safety investments.
- Hold utilities to an increasingly stringent safety standard, which includes requirements to tie executive compensation to safety, safety culture improvements and direct reporting to the CPUC by members of the investor-owned utility boards of directors.
- 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 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.
The Governor’s budget made vital investments in resilience to help the state prepare for wildfires:
- $75 million to build resiliency and surge capacity among state and local government agencies in in the event of a utility company’s decision to initiate a Public Safety Power Shutoff.
- $38.7 million to expand the state’s capacity for emergency response
- $730,000 to help streamline hazardous fuel treatment programs.
- $41 million to fund inspections and improve review of utility companies’ wildfire mitigation programs.
- $225.8 million, from cap-and-trade revenues and General Fund, for forest health, fuel reduction and other wildfire prevention efforts -- including $200 million of SB 901 funds allocated annually for 5 years.
- $50 million for Listos California, a new emergency preparedness outreach campaign.
- $60 million, including $10 million in FY19 and a revised fee structure that goes into effect next year, to upgrade California’s archaic 9-1-1 system and $1 million for first responder broadband network and integration with the 9-1-1 system.
- $67.5 million to expand firefighting surge capacity.
- $127.2 million for C-130 Air Tankers and twenty-first century firefighting helicopters.
- $130.3 million for better communication equipment for first responders.
- $24.7 million for CAL FIRE to procure innovation solutions to the wildfire crisis via the Innovation Procurement Sprint, operate Fire Detection Cameras, and enhance Situational Awareness Staffing.
- $711,000 for a statewide Disaster Reserve Corps.