Two bills were introduced to the state Legislature on Tuesday by local Assemblyman James Gallagher and state Sen. Jim Nielsen meant to help prevent future wildfires and utility power shutoffs.
If approved by their colleagues and signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom, the bills – Assembly Bill 1941 and Assembly Bill 1942 – would direct additional funding into forest fuel reduction projects and utility infrastructure upgrades by investor owned utilities like Pacific Gas and Electric Co. – two of the primary factors of recent catastrophic wildfires and power shutoffs.
“PG&E needs to get back to the basics of providing safe and reliable power,” Gallagher said in a press release. “There is no doubt that PG&E’s mismanagement is the primary culprit in these devastating fires and PSPS events. But policies coming out of the State Capitol that distract from these primary objectives only make matters worse.”
AB 1941 would temporarily pause the state’s renewable power mandates until infrastructure and vegetation management conditions are improved. The legislation would require that savings from this temporary relief only be used to harden the grid and update decaying infrastructure, and at the same time, any proposed bonuses and salary increases for executives of the companies would be prohibited.
PG&E is currently spending roughly $2.4 billion annually meeting the state’s mandate for renewable power. The company spent only $1.5 billion to update its century-old infrastructure in 2017.
“Power shutoffs are unacceptable. Too many lives were interrupted; many people went without pay. PG&E executives need to be held accountable,” Nielsen said in a press release.
AB 1942 would appropriate $330 million from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund for forest and fire prevention programs and projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by uncontrolled wildfires.
Last year’s fires generated 45 million metric tons of carbon, which is more than nine times the state’s combined carbon reductions achieved in 2016 and 2017. The independent Legislative Analyst’s Office determined that forestry management is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce carbon emissions.