Frazier bill would require utilities to move electric transmission equipment out of forests and high-fire risk areas, or bury or fireproof it, to prevent wildfire

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D-Discovery Bay) has introduced a bill to require the state’s electric utility companies to move their equipment and transmission lines out of forests, and other regions where the potential for fire is high, or bury or fireproof it, to prevent the ignition of devastating and deadly wildfires.

“Like all Californians I am horrified that our state has become increasingly powerless against wildfires indiscriminately destroying communities and taking lives every fire season,” Frazier said. “Climate change has made us more vulnerable and California’s major utility companies have failed to keep up with this new reality. Their equipment has ignited thousands of wildfires in recent years and many of these blew up into destructive and deadly infernos. The environmental damage caused by these fires is appalling. Forests are scarred for decades. The loss of life due to an inattentive safety net is unconscionable. We need common-sense solutions now. Requiring utility companies to take responsibility for their equipment in order to safeguard California is reasonable and just.”

AB 281 would require utilities to relocate their transmission lines out of forests and other areas where the potential for fire is high. If relocation is not possible, they would be required to bury the lines. If it’s not possible to relocate or bury the lines, they would be required to improve the equipment to “prevent, and minimize the risk” of the equipment igniting fires.

A recent Los Angeles Times investigation found that equipment owned by California’s three largest utility companies started more than 2,000 wildfires in a 3-1/2 year period ending in 2017. The report found the state lacks the resources to monitor whether utility companies are properly maintaining their transmission line right-of-ways to protect against vegetation coming into contact with their equipment and sparking fires.

“The current system, with the state relying on the utility companies to police themselves, is not working,” Frazier added. “There is no bigger issue facing our state than this right now, and we cannot wait to take action any longer. The way of doing business with these utilities needs to change by recognizing what’s been done in the past doesn’t work anymore.”

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Assemblymember Frazier represents the 11th Assembly District, which includes the communities of Antioch, Bethel Island, Birds Landing, Brentwood, Byron, Collinsville, Discovery Bay, Fairfield, Isleton, Knightsen, Locke, Oakley, Pittsburg (partial), Rio Vista, Suisun City, Travis AFB, Vacaville and Walnut Grove.

CONTACT:   Andrew Bird (916) 319-2011 Andrew.Bird@asm.ca.gov