At a press conference earlier today, Governor Gavin Newsom announced the release of a report titled “Wildfires and Climate Change: California’s Energy Future,” which addresses several issues surrounding utilities, energy, and wildfire. The Governor formed a “strike team” in February to advise the state on PG&E’s bankruptcy proceeding, and gave the group 60 days to map out a plan to help ensure that ratepayers’ service remains intact while wildfire victims get justice and ratepayers and employees remain protected. The new report addresses the bankruptcy and several other aspects of the major investor-owned utilities’ responsibilities, including the need to mitigate wildfire ignition around utility equipment, liability and cost issues such as inverse condemnation reform, and how the utilities can meet their clean energy goals while expending resources on wildfire prevention efforts.
While the report identifies a number of possible pathways to distributing costs for utilities liability in wildfires, it refrains from recommending a specific model (such as a securitization scheme or inverse condemnation reform). Instead, the report recognizes the role of the Commission on Catastrophic Wildfire Cost and Recovery (Commission), created last year by Senate Bill 901 (Dodd) in making recommendations on how to ensure victims and ratepayers don’t wind up bearing the liability cost burden. RCRC filed extensive comments with the Commission earlier this month on a number of topics, including inverse condemnation reform, homeowners insurance availability, and general forest management issues.
The report, however, goes beyond just utility issues and reinforces the Governor’s commitment to addressing many important forestry and wildfire areas RCRC has long advocated on, including the need for doing more to prevent wildfires through better forest resilience and management practices, fuels treatment and wildfire prevention. The report also acknowledges the need to strengthen community resilience at the local level, address smart development and housing requirements in high fire risk areas, and ensuring mutual aid resources such as prepositioning, all of which RCRC has strongly supported both at the Legislature and with the Administration.
The Governor’s 60-Day report can be accessed here.