ORIGINAL REPORTING: California screaming — policymakers demand wildfire prevention
California screaming — policymakers demand wildfire prevention while the state burns; 2017 wildfire records will likely be broken this year; can state lawmakers stop the madness?
Herman K. Trabish, July 31, 2018 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: This story anticipated the PG&E bankruptcy filing. All the elements that could have prevented it are in the story, including the recognition of the root factor as climate change, but stakeholders could not act fast enough or boldly enough.
California is on fire again in 2018. There were at least 19 fires burning across the state, consuming at least 210,000 acres, according to the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CALFIRE) at 6 p.m. on July 30. It was "a record-setting pace and conditions are primed for more," California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Picker told the committee. [In the end, the 2018 Camp Fire in Northern California was the deadliest and most destructive in California history. It destroyed 18,661 structures and killed 86 people.] The conference committee faced questions about how to compensate victims for the mounting losses of life and property and the role of the state's utilities in prevention and compensation.
The 2017 fires left the utilities facing huge, possibly even insurmountable, liabilities. Decisions by the conference committee [could have but did not] protect their ability to continue delivering California's electricity. In his letter to the conference committee, Governor Brown asked the lawmakers to use the last four weeks of the 2018 legislative session to address wildfire-related questions. He recommended changes in fire prevention and preparedness, forest management, utility infrastructure hardening and fire liability issues. The committee put a wide range of questions on the table for discussion. There was wide agreement that fuel-loading must be addressed by vegetation management. There was much less agreement on how utility liability should be handled… click here for more