IBEW 1245 members have been working around the clock for many months to harden the grid in order to mitigate the risk of wildfire. But the new normal in California — hotter, drier weather, an overgrowth of foliage that can turn into fire fuel in an instant, and increasingly unpredictable winds — means that we may still be at risk of another catastrophic wildfire, and with fire season already upon us, the urgency for action cannot be understated. Our union is calling on California legislators to act quickly and decisively to reform the state’s outdated policies– reforms that are sorely needed not just for the utilities, but for the wildfire victims, the workers, and the communities across California that deserve safe and reliable electricity.
Getting such legislation in writing has been an uphill battle, but thanks to pressure from Local 1245 and our coalition partners, as well as Gov. Newsom and his team, a new bill was recently introduced that would be a big step in the right direction. This bill, AB 1054, would:
- Create a structured $21 billion insurance fund for utility-related wildfires. California’s utilities would be able to opt into the fund at different levels. Together, California’s three investor-owned utilities (IOUs) would contribute $10.5 billion, and the state would contribute another $10.5 billion. The fund would be exclusively used for utility-related fire costs, including fire victim compensation, and would ensure that utilities have access to the capital they need so our members can continue critical grid-hardening projects and upgrades.
- Implement a new fire safety certification process with oversight, requiring each IOU to submit, get approval, and enact a comprehensive fire mitigation and safety plan. Any utility that doesn’t have a certified safety plan in place would be held wholly responsible for any fire involving their equipment.
- Strengthen worker protection language in the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) code, expanding upon the language we advocated for and implemented last year through SB 901. Getting this improved language into AB 1054 has been Local 1245’s top priority, and the process was exceedingly challenging, but we are pleased to announce that the worker protections we pushed for have been incorporated into the final version of the bill.
AB 1054 isn’t perfect, but it would go a long way towards safer, more secure utility infrastructure in California. While there are no guarantees as to how it will effect PG&E, we are all but certain that in the absence of its passage, the situation at PG&E is likely to get even worse. That’s why we have been working around the clock to advance this bill and get it to Gov. Newsom’s desk before the Legislature goes on recess on July 12.
On Monday, July 8, the State Senate passed the bill 31-7. The Assembly is expected to take it up later this week, and IBEW 1245 activists have been making their voices heard with key legislators over the phone this week – and close to 100 of our members will descend upon the Capitol today to demonstrate support for the bill.
We will post periodic updates here to keep members informed on the progress of this legislation. Questions may be directed to your Business Rep.