The Barbed Wire - June 25, 2021

June 25, 2021
Board of Forestry Update
Bill of the Week: SB 552 (Hertzberg) – County Drought Task Force and New Well Permit Applications
CPUC Adopts Additional Public Safety Power Shut-off (PSPS) Guidelines
RCRC Participates in California Foundation on the Environment and Economy Conference Panel on Communications Resiliency
State and Local Tax Deduction Relief Included in Senator Sanders’ Budget Proposal
Legislation Introduced to Improve Water Management in the West
Surface Transportation Reauthorization/Infrastructure Update

Board of Forestry Update

On Tuesday, the Board of Forestry (BOF) held a regulatory hearing to receive public comment on its Fire Safe Regulations proposal. The meeting, conducted by staff before the full board, marks the conclusion of the formal 45-day public comment period. The Board did not take action on the proposal, but simply listened to testimony.

Nearly 40 members of the public testified, including several county supervisors and staff, all expressing concerns with the current text in print. RCRC, the California State Association of Counties, and Urban Counties of California made detailed comments on the need for the Board to delay the rulemaking process and create a multidisciplinary working group of local representatives, including local fire and land use planning experts, to craft a more balanced proposal that considers wildfire risk mitigation, as well as the housing needs of the state. Additionally, the county associations submitted a detailed document that included a mark-up of requested amendments to the proposed rules. A letter submitted by Senators Weiner (D- San Francisco), Dodd (D- Napa), McGuire (D- Healdsburg) and Assemblymember Chui (D-San Francisco), echoed many of the same issues outlined in county comments.

RCRC also submitted a comprehensive comment letter outlining the adverse effects the proposal will have on the natural resources, economy and residents of RCRC member counties and further noting the BOF’s obligations under the California Administrative Act and the California Environmental Quality Act to assess the environmental and economic impacts of the regulations before moving forward. 

The BOF staff must review the comments received during the 45-day comment period and respond to issues noted in those comments as part of the final rulemaking package. After consideration by the board, the proposal may move forward as currently drafted or be modified to address concerns raised during the public comment period. The full regulatory package can be accessed on the BOFs Proposed Rule Packages webpage. Please contact Tracy Rhine, RCRC Senior Legislative Affairs Advocate, by email for further information.

Bill of the Week: SB 552 (Hertzberg) – County Drought Task Force and New Well Permit Applications

RCRC and CSAC have jointly expressed opposition to Senate Bill 552, authored by Senator Bob Hertzberg (D -Van Nuys), which, among other provisions, would require a county to establish a drought task force to help respond to failures of small community water systems. Due to concerns expressed by RCRC and CSAC, the bill was amended in the Senate Governance and Finance Committee on April 26th to allow counties to comply with this provision with an alternative process to a task force if that process facilitates drought and water shortage preparedness. The amendments also deem a county in compliance with the task force provision if a county already has a task force in place by the time of the bill’s enactment on January 1, 2022. The bill additionally requires counties to develop plans that include interim and long-term solutions to drought and water shortage risks. The April 26th amendments also provide that these plans may be standalone or integrated into an existing planning document. Previously, the bill would have required counties to develop these plans as part of their general planning process. 

On June 17th, SB 552 was further amended at the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife to include new provisions pertaining to well permit applications. RCRC and CSAC renewed their concern through a letter in opposition to the Assembly amendments. These new amendments would require a county to update its well permit application to include a checkbox or another input method to determine if the reason for the well permit application is due to a dry well, or due to a well that is actively failing or at risk of failing due to drought and water shortage, and report to the department and any groundwater sustainability agencies within its jurisdiction a summary of information on well permits, including the number and locations of both dry wells and wells that are actively failing or at risk of failing due to drought and water shortage.

RCRC and CSAC have opposed the bill on the basis that these new amendments place an administrative and fiscal burden on counties, and potentially asks counties to make determinations on the reasons for well failure that are outside its jurisdiction. The letter of opposition further states than the Department of Water Resources has already established a program and website for reporting and providing information on dry wells, and that counties do not have the staff or financial resources to collect, analyze, and report this information on their individual county websites. RCRC continues to advocate that the bill be revised to align with existing state programs and resources, and that counties not be held responsible for making well status determinations, nor be required to expend their own time and resources on data compilation, analysis, and website reporting on new well permit applications.

SB 552 was passed by the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife on June 17th, and will next be heard at the Assembly Committee on Local Government on June 30th. RCRC and CSAC’s letter of opposition is available here. For more information, contact Sidd Nag, RCRC Legislative Advocate, by email or call (916) 447-4806.

CPUC Adopts Additional Public Safety Power Shut-off (PSPS) Guidelines

On Thursday, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) adopted a third round of Guidelines governing electric utility planning, notification, and mitigation of de-energization events, also known as PSPS.  These Phase 3 Guidelines build upon, and improve, guidelines developed in 2019 and 2020 in light of past PSPS experiences.

The new guidelines:

  • Expand the universe of critical facilities and infrastructure that utilities must notify in advance of a PSPS event and for which utilities must help assess the need for backup generation.  The definition now includes local elections operations, food banks, shelters, and independent living centers.
  • Establish clearer expectations for the siting of and services provided by utility Community Resource Centers, including clearer direction for utility consultation with and incorporation of suggestions made by local governments.  
  • Significantly enhance utility efforts to mitigate PSPS impacts on medically sensitive residents, including through the provision of backup batteries, transportation assistance, and accommodations, as appropriate.
  • Greatly improve pre-season planning and post-event/post season reporting of PSPS events for greater transparency and accountability.

RCRC submitted extensive comments on the proposed decision and made several suggested changes to strengthen the guidelines and ensure that the CPUC signals its future role in continuing to review the necessity and conduct of future PSPS events.  In particular, the CPUC incorporated RCRC’s suggestions to:

  • Ensure that utilities must mitigate PSPS impacts for medically sensitive customers, rather than simply informing them where to access information and support during a PSPS event in lieu of providing actual mitigation assistance.
  • Ensure that utilities inform the CPUC of the maximum amount of time customers went without power during PSPS events.
  • Resolve ambiguities about the extent to which utilities must notify paratransit agencies of customers who may need PSPS assistance.
  • Recast several passages in the decision to demonstrate the CPUC’s continued role in overseeing the necessity and conduct of future PSPS events.  This is especially important considering the imminent shift of responsibility for review of utility wildfire mitigation plans from the CPUC to the new Office of Energy Infrastructure Safety at the California Natural Resources Agency.

The CPUC also agreed to consolidate all the existing PSPS Guidelines and Decisions into a single document, as suggested by the Joint Local Governments, RCRC, and other stakeholders. For more information, contact John Kennedy, RCRC Legislative Advocate, by email or call 916-447-4806.

RCRC Participates in California Foundation on the Environment and Economy Conference Panel on Communications Resiliency

Last week, RCRC participated in the California Foundation on the Environment and Economy (CFEE)’s 2021 Telecommunications and Technology Conference.  As one of three panelists on a roundtable discussion on the future of telecommunications resiliency, RCRC Legislative Advocate John Kennedy joined Daniel Schweizer (Crown Castle Director of Government Affairs) and Mark DiNunzio (Cox Communications Director of Regulatory Affairs).  

The afternoon panel provided an overview of the pressing need for improvement in communications system resiliency, as shown by the massively disruptive 2019 Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) events. It also discussed two recent California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Decisions requiring wireless and wireline communications systems to improve system resiliency and implementation challenges associated with achieving those requirements.

Panelists fielded a wide variety of questions from industry stakeholders and legislators. RCRC outlined the integral role that communications systems play in today’s society and how loss of communications service during a PSPS event or other power outage can have serious and far-reaching impacts on public health and safety and the environment.  

For more information, contact John Kennedy, RCRC Legislative Advocate, by email or call 916-447-4806.

State and Local Tax Deduction Relief Included in Senator Sanders’ Budget Proposal

On Tuesday, Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), indicated a willingness to adjust the federal state and local tax (SALT) deduction in a draft outline of a budget resolution, stating in an interview “I have a problem with extremely wealthy people being able to get the complete deduction.”  The leaked outline fails to provide specifics on how the updated write-off proposal would work; however, the $120 billion allocated in Senator Sanders’ plan is not enough funding to cover a permanent, full repeal of the $10,000 SALT cap on the write-off. According to an estimate of Representative Tom Suozzi’s (D-New York) bill to restore the tax break, fully repealing the SALT cap would cost about $385 billion. Senate Democrats plan to vote on a budget in July, setting up a fast-track process to pass President Biden’s agenda in the Fall.

Legislation Introduced to Improve Water Management in the West

On Wednesday, Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, introduced the Western Water Infrastructure Act of 2021 (S. 2185). This legislation will reauthorize expiring programs for the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) and authorize funding to eliminate the BOR infrastructure maintenance backlog. Click here for a section-by-section of the bill and here for the bill text.

Surface Transportation Reauthorization/Infrastructure Update

Last week, the House Democrats’ $547 billion surface transportation reauthorization bill (The INVEST Act) was posted to officially be considered on the floor of the House the week of June 28th. Of note, the modified bill included provisions that would provide for a $148 billion transfer from the U.S Department of the Treasury’s general fund to the highway fund ($109 billion to the highway account, and $39 billion to the mass transit account). Using general funds to support the highway fund is nothing new for Congress and has become an increasingly likely pay-for solution given President Biden’s apprehension toward raising or indexing the gas tax. Other pay-for alternatives that have been floated, such as charging a fee on electric vehicles or moving to a vehicle miles traveled fee, have also been avoided over political concerns. If approved, such transfer would be the biggest ever transfer and more than twice as large as the general fund transfer in the 2015 FAST Act.
Additionally, on Thursday, President Biden endorsed the bipartisan infrastructure framework introduced by the group of 21 Senators led by Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio). The plan includes $579 billion in new spending to rebuild America’s roads and bridges, improve public transit systems, expand passenger rail, upgrade our ports and airports, invest in broadband infrastructure, fix our water systems, modernize our power sector, and improve climate resilience. Despite this progress, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) stated that the House would not approve the bipartisan deal until the Senate first passes a larger, currently unwritten reconciliation bill. Such a reconciliation package is rumored to spend approximately $6 trillion and include tax increases along with several “non-traditional” infrastructure priorities. Such a statement from Speaker Pelosi effectively pressures Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) and other moderate Democrats to back a larger reconciliation proposal if they want to see the bipartisan agreement become law. Meanwhile, progressive Democrats are expected to face pressure to back the bipartisan deal because it reportedly also contains an extension of transportation programs set to expire by September 30th.


Announcements regarding hearings, grants, and public comment notices of importance to California's rural counties.


Save the Date - June 28: Visit California Hosts Discussion of Next Steps in Tourism Recovery

The Legislature and Governor Newsom are finalizing details for stimulus funding for Visit California’s marketing program in the fiscal year beginning July 1. In keeping with the original bill authored by Sen. Mike McGuire, Visit California has formed a “Calling All Californians” Tourism Task Force that will provide feedback to ensure advertising stays on the air throughout the summer and into next year. The task force’s input will help inform the Marketing Advisory Committee and the Board of Directors as they consider the marketing plan.
On June 28, Visit California will host an industrywide conference call “Dreaming On: California Tourism Update” to report details of the board’s actions on marketing plans to accelerate recovery and provide an opportunity to respond to questions. 

When the pandemic emerged last spring, Visit California hosted a call to discuss the crisis and its impact on the tourism industry. More than 1,200 called in. The June 28 call comes at a far more hopeful time. The stimulus marketing plans are critically important, and I encourage all industry partners and their business associates to dial in.

Register today to join the call on June 28 at 2 p.m.

State Launches Listening Sessions Seeking Input to Develop Drinking Water Well Principles and Strategies

As part of the April 21, 2021 Executive Drought Proclamation, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), in coordination with the State Water Resources Control Board, is advancing the development of principles and strategies related to groundwater management and drinking water well impacts. The State is hosting Listening Sessions to gather your input for this effort. All perspectives are welcome and interested parties are encouraged to attend. 

The Executive Proclamation identifies Item #11: 
“To ensure the potential impacts of drought on communities are anticipated and proactively addressed, the Department of Water Resources, in coordination with the Water Board, shall develop groundwater management principles and strategies to monitor, analyze, and minimize impacts to drinking water wells.”

Three identical Listening Sessions will be hosted on:

June 29 Listening Session – Noon to 1:30pm
Webinar Full

June 29 Listening Session – 5:00pm to 6:15pm 

June 30 Listening Session – Noon to 1:30pm

If you are not able to attend a Listening Session and would like to provide input, comments may be sent via email. For more information on this effort, or to provide comments, please contact: Additional public input opportunities will occur once draft principles and strategies are available for public review. 


State Water Resources Control Board Public Meeting on Potential Drought Actions for Shasta River and Scott River Watersheds 

On Thursday, July 1, 2021, State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) staff will hold a public meeting to provide information and solicit input on a potential drought actions a that could be implemented to address water shortage in the Scott River and Shasta River watersheds during the ongoing drought. For additional details, see here.

Date: Thursday, July 1, 2021
Time: 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Click here to join via Zoom
Meeting ID: 939 2483 1232
Passcode: 571112


Forest Stewardship Workshop

The University of California Cooperative Extension is offering training opportunities to help landowners develop sustainable plans to improve and protect their forest lands.

  • Online every Wednesday, (6-7:30pm) starting August 4, 2021 through September 29, 2021, and in-person Saturday, August 28th in Tuolumne County

For more information, see here.


State Water Board Awarding O&M Grants To Disadvantaged Public Drinking Water Systems

The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) is soliciting letters of interest from public agencies, public water systems or nonprofit organizations to award a total of $27.5 million from uncommitted Proposition 68 funds for disadvantaged communities (DACs) treatment of contaminated groundwater. Specifically, operations and maintenance (O&M) costs are eligible for DAC water systems over a period of three to five years, including (but not limited to) permitting, monitoring and reporting, chemicals, and/or plant operator labor. Letters of interest are due to the SWRCB’s Division of Financial Assistance by July 12, 2021. For more information, see here.


Access the State Grants Portal for a Multitude of Funding Opportunities

Billions of dollars are up for grabs to public agencies and other entities, including tribes and businesses. Grant seekers can access a centralized portal of grant and loan opportunities here, or sign up to receive new grant opportunities delivered straight to your inbox. 


Resource pages, deadline extensions, and available programs to assist communities impacted by COVID-19.


Coronavirus Relief Available from the Small Business Administration

The federal Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering several coronavirus relief options to help alleviate the financial hardships resulting from the coronavirus (COVID-19). The programs have received an overwhelming number of applications from businesses, so be sure to check the SBA website for the latest updates on the status of these programs.

  • The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provides loan forgiveness for retaining employees by temporarily expanding the traditional SBA 7(a) loan program. After initial funding was quickly depleted, the program received an infusion of an additional $310 billion, allowing the SBA to resume the program on April 27, 2020. Be sure to check the SBA website for the most recent information on the application process and availability of funds.
  • The Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Emergency Advance provides up to $10,000 of economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing temporary difficulties.
  • SBA Express Bridge Loans can be used to bridge the gap for businesses while applying for a direct SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan; small businesses who currently have a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender to access up to $25,000 quickly.
  • SBA Debt Relief provides a financial reprieve to small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you are interested in programs for other disasters, the SBA Disaster Loan Assistance portal is available here.


Economic Development Resources for Communities and Businesses Impacted by the Coronavirus

The California Association for Local Economic Development (CALED) has assembled resources for communities and business impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19). The page will be continually evolving as new resources become available. To go directly to the CALED resources, click here.


Use of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Funds for Infectious Disease Response

Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds may be used for a range of eligible activities that prevent and respond to the spread of infectious diseases such as the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Check out the Quick Guide to CDBG Eligible Activities to Support Infectious Disease Response for guidance and additional information.


Coronavirus (COVID-19) County Resource Page Available

The California State Association of Counties (CSAC), RCRC’s local government partner, continues to provide excellent up-to-date state and federal information to counties on this ever-changing pandemic event.  We encourage visiting CSAC’s COVID-19 resource page, which contains vital links to all CSAC COVID-19 advocacy letters and resources.  CSAC’s staff continues to work around the clock to update activities so that all of California’s counties can remain properly informed.


Information related to the current status of legislation and regulations impacting California’s rural counties.

Assembly Bill 1 (C. Garcia): Hazardous Waste: Assembly Bill 1 establishes several new governance, policy, and fiscal reforms to improve the Department of Toxic Substances Control, including significantly increasing several fees and repealing several important local government fee exemptions. Status: AB 1 awaits consideration in the Senate Environmental Quality. RCRC Status: Concerns

Assembly Bill 246 (Quirk) Contractors: disciplinary actions. Assembly Bill 246 allows the Contractors State Licensing Board to take disciplinary actions against a contractor who violates state or local laws prohibiting illegal dumping.  Status: AB 246 passed the Legislature and awaits consideration by the Governor. RCRC Status: Support

Assembly Bill 297 (Gallagher) Fire Prevention. Increases funding for forest health improvement and wildfire risk reduction projects and makes other substantive changes to help expedite project completion.  Status: AB 297 is a two-year bill. RCRC Status: Support

Assembly Bill 322 (Salas): Energy: Electric Program Investment Charge program: Requires the Energy Commission to consider bioenergy projects for biomass conversion when awarding funds under the Electric Program Investment Charge program. Status: AB awaits consideration Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee. RCRC Status: Support    

 Assembly Bill 332 (ESTM): Hazardous waste: treated wood waste: Reestablishes a statutory pathway for the alternative management and disposal of treated wood waste in a landfill.  Status:  AB 332 consideration in the Senate Appropriations Committee. RCRC Status:  Support

Assembly Bill 819 (Levine) California Environmental Quality Act: notices and documents: electronic filing and posting.  Requires lead agencies to post California Environmental Quality Act notices and documents on their internet websites and to submit CEQA documents to the State Clearinghouse in electronic form.  Status: AB 819 awaits Assembly Concurrence in Senate Amendments. RCRC Status: Watch

Assembly Bill 843 (Aguiar-Curry): California Renewables Portfolio Standard Program: renewable feed-in tariff: Allows Community Choice Aggregators (CCAs) to access the CPUC BioMAT program that provides funding for renewable bioenergy electricity projects, including biomass and biogas. Status: AB 843 awaits consideration in the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee. RCRC Status: Support

Assembly Bill 1078 (Patterson) Energy: building standards: photovoltaic requirements. Exempts residential buildings damaged or destroyed in a disaster during the 2020 calendar year from having to install solar energy systems under the California Energy Commission’s recently adopted building requirements.  Status: AB 1078 is a 2-Year bill. RCRC Status: Support

Assembly Bill 1154 (Patterson) California Environmental Quality Act: exemption: egress route projects: fire safety. Exempts from the California Environmental Quality Act egress route projects undertaken by a public agency and that are recommended by the Board of Forestry to improve fire safety of an existing subdivision.  Status: AB 1154 is a two-year bill. RCRC Status: Support

Assembly Bill 1311 (Wood) Recycling: beverage containers: certified recycling centers. Makes modest changes to the Beverage Container Recycling Act to increase consumer access to redemption opportunities. Status: AB 1311 awaits consideration in the Senate Environmental Quality Committee. RCRC Status: Support

Assembly Bill 1344 (Arambula) State Department of Public Health: Needle and Syringe Exchange Services.  Exempts needle and syringe exchanges services from the California Environmental Quality Act.  Status: AB 1344 awaits consideration in the Senate awaits consideration by the Senate Environmental Quality Committee. RCRC Status: Neutral  

Assembly Bill 1454 (Bloom) Beverage Container and Litter Reduction Act.  Assembly Bill 1454 makes several changes to the Beverage Container Recycling Program, including creation of a new $25,000 startup loan for the creation of new recycling centers in unserved or underserved areas.  Status: AB 1454 awaits referral by the Senate Environmental Quality Committee.  RCRC Status: Support

Senate Bill 37 (Cortese) California Environmental Quality Act Exemption.  Senate Bill 37 eliminates the ability to use a “common sense exemption” under the California Environmental Quality Act for any projects undertaken at over 40,000 sites throughout the state that appear on the Cortese List of currently or formerly contaminated properties.  The bill will require discretionary projects with no environmental impact at those locations (including many local corp yards, fire stations, airports, etc.) to undergo an initial assessment and prepare a negative declaration.  Status:  SB 37 awaits consideration in the Assembly Natural Resources Committee.  RCRC Status:  Oppose.

Senate Bill 38 (Wieckowski): Beverage Containers: Replaces the existing Beverage Container Recycling Program (Bottle Bill) with a new recycling program administered by beverage container manufacturers and increases the CRV from $0.05 to $0.10 per container if the state fails to achieve specified recycling rates.  Repeals the $10.5 million annually set aside for payments to cities and counties to address recycling and litter. Status: SB 38 awaits consideration in the Assembly Natural Resources Committee. RCRC Status: Oppose Unless Amended

Senate Bill 52 (Dodd): State of Emergency: Power Outages. Senate Bill 52 clarifies that deenergization events (also known as PSPS events) qualify as events for which a local emergency can be declared under the California Emergency Services Act. Status: SB 52 awaits consideration in the Assembly Emergency Management Committee. RCRC Status: Support

Senate Bill 99 (Dodd): Community Energy Resilience Act of 2021. Senate Bill 99 requires the State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission to develop and implement a grant program for local governments to develop community energy resilience plans. Status: SB 99 awaits consideration in the Assembly Utilities and Energy Committee.  RCRC Status: Support

Senate Bill 207 (Dahle): Photovoltaic Recycling Advisory Group: Senate Bill 207 seeks to spur the recycling and reuse of solar photovoltaic panels by requiring an advisory group to make recommendations to ensure that, to the extent possible, all solar photovoltaic panels in the state are reused or recycled at the end of their lives in a safe and cost-effective manner. Status: SB 207 awaits consideration in the Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee. RCRC Status:  Support

Senate Bill 244 (Archuleta): Lithium-ion batteries: illegal disposal: fire prevention: Senate Bill 244 seeks to prevent lithium-ion battery fires by requiring the state to develop training and best practices for the detection, safe handling, and suppression of fires that originate from discarded lithium-ion batteries in solid waste collection vehicles, transfer and processing stations, and disposal facilities.  Status: SB 244 awaits consideration on the Assembly Natural Resources Committee. RCRC Status: Support

Senate Bill 341 (McGuire) Makes several changes to increase oversight and accountability of telecommunications service outages. Status: SB 341 awaits consideration in the Assembly Communications and Conveyance Committee. RCRC Status: Support 

 Senate Bill 343 (Allen) Prohibits the sale of any product or packaging using a deceptive or misleading claim about its recyclability, including using the chasing arrows symbol unless CalRecycle determines the product or packaging is recyclable.  Requires CalRecycle to identify the types of plastic products and packaging from which a claim of recyclability may be made. Status: SB 343 awaits consideration on the Assembly Judiciary Committee. RCRC Status: Watch 

Senate Bill 533 (Stern) Electrical corporations: wildfire mitigation plans: deenergization events: microgrids. Requires utilities to discuss in their Wildfire Mitigation Plans efforts to improve their electrical systems, focused on those areas and assets that have been deenergized the greatest number of times.   Status: SB 533 awaits consideration in the Assembly Utilities & Energy Committee. RCRC Status: Support

Senate Bill 619 (Laird) Organic waste: reduction regulations. Will seek to provide local governments with additional flexibility to achieve the state’s organic waste recycling requirements.  Status: SB 619 awaits consideration by the Assembly Appropriations Committee. RCRC Status: Support