The Utility Accountability and Wildfire Prevention Act of 2021 (AB 21) will allow local authorities to bring actions against electrical companies who fail to comply with safety regulations
Sacramento, CA – East Bay Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda) has reintroduced legislation, AB 21, to combat potential wildfires caused by utility companies who fail to meet current safety standards.
AB 21 allows the California Attorney General and local District Attorneys to bring an action against the owners of electrical transmission lines that have not maintained proper vegetation abatement, as dictated by current regulations, around electrical polls and lines.
“We have seen, time and time again, PG&E’s failure to do the right thing when it comes to maintaining their equipment and conducting proper vegetation abetment,” said Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan. “Our deadliest fire, the Camp Fire in 2018, was caused by malfunctioning equipment that sparked overgrown vegetation. That fire completely wiped out a community, killing 86 people, and damaging or destroying over 18,000 buildings. This type of carnage is avoidable by proper, routine maintenance and abatement. By allowing local authorities to hold companies accountable when they are out of compliance, we can work to keep our communities safer,” finished Bauer-Kahan.
Any fines that result from an action against an electrical company found in violation will be deposited in the newly created “Utility Accountability and Wildfire Prevention Fund” with 50% going to the State/County that brought the action and 50% going to CalFire. It is required that funds be used for enhancing forest management, fire planning, wildfire prevention and suppression, and fire-related enforcement activities.
“Our codes of proper maintenance and clearance around electrical lines has not been updated in almost 50 years” said Bauer-Kahan. “It is time to give our law some teeth, ensuring that everyone steps up in preventing wildfire, and those who do not shall carry the burden.”
AB 21 is also coauthored by Assemblymembers Robert Rivas, David Chiu, Tim Grayson, Cottie Petrie-Norris, Mark Stone, Buffy Wicks, and Senators Monique Limon and Scott Wiener. AB 21 is in the Assembly Rules Committee waiting for referral to a policy committee.