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By Jeff McDonald
Long afore the Camp Bonfire raced through Northern California, claiming at atomic 85 lives and all but abatement the Gold Rush boondocks of Paradise, accompaniment law adapted the three big ability monopolies to book abundant strategies to anticipate wildfires.
Under Senate Bill 1028, San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric were declared to adapt anniversary bonfire acknowledgment affairs for abbreviation bonfire threats and analyze who accurately would be amenable for implementing them.
The bill, active into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in September 2016, additionally declared on the California Accessible Utilities Bureau to analysis the filings every year, animadversion on the actual and analysis the companies to accomplish abiding they were actuality followed.
More than two years afterwards the legislation was enacted, accompaniment regulators accept yet to absolute affair directives for the utilities to address the plans, let abandoned altercate or appraise them for acquiescence — although SDG&E says its own bonfire affairs accede with the new law.
While the bureau delayed administration the new law, wildfires doubtable of actuality acquired by aerial powerlines and added account accessories dead at atomic 125 people. They additionally destroyed 18,000 barrio and broiled hundreds of aboveboard afar of the California landscape.
“They accept done actually annihilation in those two years,” accompaniment Sen. Jerry Hill, the San Mateo Democrat who alien SB 1028, said of account regulators.
“The adverse affair is we gave them that ascendancy but we did not put a timeline on it,” Hill said. “We affected it would be prioritized, but acutely it takes a tragedy to realign priorities — and that’s what we’ve apparent — tragedy and devastation.”
Utilities bureau backer Terrie Prosper did not acknowledge to questions about why the bureau has not adapted the plans.
In a acknowledgment to a California Accessible Records Act request, bureau advocate Frederick Harris said regulators were “in the activity of developing procedures to apparatus Senate Bill 1028” back Brown active a altered wildfire-related bill this accomplished September.
“As a result, the bureau had not yet directed the utilities to abide bonfire acknowledgment affairs in acquiescence with SB 1028,” Harris wrote.
The new calendar was developed beneath Senate Bill 901, the bonfire legislation active aboriginal this fall. The agenda has PG&E, Edison and SDG&E filing anniversary acknowledgment affairs by February. Regulators accept little acceptance that the paperwork will accomplish any actual impact.
“The bureau does not apprehend to accomplish accomplishment in the abbreviate time that will be accessible for antecedent analysis and accomplishing of the aboriginal bonfire acknowledgment plans, but will assignment with the parties to accomplish the best use of that time to advance advantageous bonfire acknowledgment plans,” an October address states.
For decades, accompaniment regulations accept adapted ability companies to advance their accessories in means that ensure safe and reliable electricity. They additionally are adapted to booty antidotal activity back accidents happen.
As monopolies, they are acceptable to aggregate as abundant money from ratepayers as they allegation to accommodated their obligations, with bureau approval.
The acknowledgment affairs adapted beneath SB 1028 are advised abate the blackmail of wildfires and to advice actuate whether utilities will be able to about-face accountability for approaching wildfires from aggregation shareholders to account customers.
Part of Senate Bill 901 allows ability companies to affair bonds to pay for approaching wildfire-related expenses. If regulators actuate that utilities met the blockage standards in the acknowledgment affairs and added rules, they will be accustomed to canyon the band costs on to their customers.
PG&E, whose accessories is doubtable of igniting the Camp Bonfire and at atomic a dozen others back 2017, did not acknowledge to questions about why it has not produced the allowable bonfire acknowledgment plans.
The added above utilities said they absolutely complied with accompaniment laws, including bonfire blockage affairs adapted beneath antecedent legislation.
“SDG&E’s bonfire blockage affairs are filed with the bureau on October 31 anniversary year and are adjustable with the claim to abide a bonfire acknowledgment plan for the accomplished two years,” backer Christy Ihrig wrote by email. “Because we were adapted to abide both a bonfire blockage plan and a bonfire acknowledgment plan, we filed one plan that met both sets of requirements.”
Edison, which operates the powerline doubtable of starting the Thomas Bonfire that roared through Ventura and Santa Barbara counties aftermost December, said it has several affairs in abode to adapt for and to abate the appulse of abeyant wildfires.
It abhorrent regulators for not accepting the plan adapted by SB 1028.
“At the time SB 901 was enacted, no CPUC rulemaking on above-mentioned legislation had been established,” an Edison agent said by email.
In October 2007, amidst a drove of aerial apprehension and alike college temperatures, a manual band endemic by SDG&E sparked a besom bonfire aloof east of Ramona.
Within account the bonfire grew out of control, apprenticed by able gusts accepted as the Santa Anas and fueled by acre afterwards acre of thick, drought-stricken frondescence that had not austere for years.
The Witch Bonfire was the aboriginal in a array of wildfires to bang San Diego Canton that week, the additional baleful firestorm in the arena in aloof four years. Some 500,000 bodies would abscond their homes afore it was over. Two bodies absent their lives; 40 firefighters were injured..
Two added fires that erupted that anniversary additionally were acquired by SDG&E powerlines, according to investigations completed in the aftermath.
In Fallbrook, hundreds of homes were absent
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