RCRC has conveyed its “Oppose Unless Amended” position on Senate Bill 247, authored by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa).  SB 247 would shift the responsibility for identifying trees and other vegetation near power lines that utilities must remove from the individual utilities to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE).  

RCRC believes that preparing and updating this exhaustive “trim list” will require the continuous expenditure of significant CAL FIRE resources that are better allocated to fuel reduction projects and defensible space inspections.   Furthermore, RCRC does not believe that it is CAL FIRE’s role to identify all trees and vegetation that a utility must remove in order to comply with existing regulatory requirements.  These are costs that are and should remain the responsibility of utilities.

As such, RCRC recommends that CAL FIRE should function like a “mandatory reporter” and only have to identify trees and vegetation that it observes in need of work during its ordinary course of operations.  Local agencies that observe encroaching trees or vegetation could forward that information on to CAL FIRE for dissemination to the appropriate utility.  This preserves the utilities’ existing roles and responsibilities while providing a helpful backstop where CAL FIRE and local agencies can perform spot checks and recommend needed work. 

RCRC’s “Oppose Unless Amended” letter with suggested amendments can be accessed here.  SB 247 passed the Senate Energy, Utilities & Communications Committee and awaits consideration in the Senate on Natural Resources & Water Committee.  For more information, John Kennedy, RCRC Legislative Advocate, can be reached at (916) 447-4806 or jkennedy@rcrcnet.org.