Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan Introduces Bill to Prevent Wildfires by Increasing Coordination Between Local Fire Districts and Utility Companies

AB 2070 would require utilities to notify fire districts of controlled burns and other risky mitigation work during high fire-risk times

For immediate release:

Sacramento, CA –Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer Kahan (D-Orinda) has introduced legislation that will increase accountability and transparency when a private utility company conducts high-risk fire mitigation work - ensuring that local fire districts are aware and prepared when utility companies conduct “hot work” or controlled burns within their jurisdiction.

When fire districts know in advance that there is risky work being conducted in their area, they can be prepared by having fire personnel and equipment poised and ready. Without this critical notification from utilities, districts can be caught off guard and lose precious moments to stop the flames should a fire break out.

 “Our fire districts do so much to protect us from fires.  It’s essential we give them all the tools they need, especially during fire season,” said Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan. “Utility work must happen in collaboration with fire chiefs to ensure our communities are safe from accidental blazes.”

This bill comes from the judgment in a legal case between PG&E and the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District. PG&E had actually sued the city of San Ramon to avoid an ordinance requiring the utility report when they did risky hot work. The court ruled in 2020 in favor of the fire district, which then reached a compromise with PG&E that will be codified in AB 2070.  Codifying this compromise from San Ramon into a new broader law will serve to protect Californians statewide when utilities perform this type of work.

The model being put into law will simply require a utility company to notify a fire protection district 24 hours before beginning high-risk mitigation work in a fire risk area during fire season.  No undue burden is being placed on the utility.  The utility will be fined $500 for failure to complete such notification.

“We all have the responsibility to mitigate fires,” said San Ramon Fire Chief Paige Meyer. “Having up-to-date information about the utility companies’ work in high fire risk areas will help considerably with the challenges of fire prevention.”

AB 2070 will also establish a framework for the utility to compensate a fire district for the use of an emergency transport team in the event that the company fails to provide sufficient notice of high fire risk work and a transport team is dispatched. By taking a balanced view of the dynamics of fire mitigation risks, AB 2070 protects citizens from fires while still allowing utilities to do the necessary work on their lines.