Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, introduced legislation that would place an independent third party such as Cal Fire in charge of overseeing electric utility corporations’ compliance with tree and vegetation-trimming requirements to reduce wildfires.
“It’s clear that the current standard is not working,” Sen. Dodd said. “We need to make sure appropriate tree trimming and line maintenance occurs. The well-being of California communities and our very lives depend on it.”
Under existing law, utilities decide what trees should be trimmed or removed to comply with standards set by the California Public Utilities Commission. However, in numerous instances in recent years, wildfire investigations have determined that vegetation was not adequately cleared from lines and was the cause of destructive fires.
Senate Bill 247 would require Cal Fire to direct utilities on trees and vegetation to be removed and later inspect the work, ensuring it meets requirements. Utilities would have to correct any issues identified by Cal Fire in a timely manner. Separate provisions in the bill would prohibit utilities from diverting maintenance revenue to other purposes and require the utilities to cover the cost of the work performed by Cal Fire.
The bill was amended Thurs. and will be set for its first policy committee hearing in the coming weeks. It is one of four wildfire or disaster-related bills Sen. Dodd has introduced so far this year.
“The public needs to know that there is real, independent oversight, not just someone in an office reviewing paperwork submitted by utilities,” said Sen. Dodd. “This bill will help prevent future wildfires and ultimately reduce costs ratepayers.”