Preparing California for the next major wildfire
This month, Gov. Gavin Newsom presented to the State legislature the findings of a report detailing steps California can take to reduce the incidence and severity of wildfires. He also shared potential strategies to shield utility companies from growing costs fueled by climate change.
The report was assembled by Newsom's strike force made up of in-house advisers, officials from Cal Fire, the Public Utilities Commission and other agencies.
Newsom formed the group in response to the recent wildfire-driven bankruptcy of PG&E and the fact that Southern California’s two major electric utilities have had their credit ratings downgraded.
HOW CAN WE PREPARE FOR THE NEXT MAJOR WILDFIRE?
Some of the report's findings dovetail with initiatives Newsom has already taken, such as deploying National Guard troops, and managing forests more aggressively. Other ideas outlined ways to shift costs such as the creation of a state-run “wildfire fund” to help utilities deal with the immediate costs of mega-fires, enabling them to pay claims to victims more quickly. The fund “would create a buffer to absorb a significant portion of the wildfire liability costs that might otherwise be passed on to ratepayers.”
Another financial option laid out in the report is a “liquidity-only fund” that would provide utilities a readily available source of financing to pay out wildfire claims while regulators determine whether to allow them to recover costs from ratepayers.
Other recommendations including strengthening the California Public Utilities Commission by increasing the resources regulators have to inspect, audit and enforce safety standards. The report also urged the state to consider a funding mechanism to help homeowners retrofit their homes for fire resiliency.
“If nothing else, the purpose of this report is to raise the seriousness of this moment,” Gov. Newsom said. It is only a matter of time before our communities again face destructive wildfires. As we look for sustainable, bi-partisan solutions to this important issue, please join New Way California by sharing this message with your family and friends!