Senate Bill 584 -- Wildfire Mitigation through Undergrounding of Power Lines

March 7, 2019

Summary:

Senate Bill 584 would expedite opportunities for local jurisdictions located in Tier 3 fire-threat areas to underground current overhead electrical infrastructure for wildfire mitigation. The bill will also establish a Wildfire Mitigation Oversight Board to develop and implement policies that reduce the looming threat of more wildfires.

Issue Background:

Overhead utility lines and equipment have caused many devastating blazes, with the equipment of California’s three largest utilities being responsible for igniting over 2,000 fires between 2014 and 2017.

The current utility company solutions of turning off the power and managing vegetation have been largely ineffective. Utility companies propose “hardening” the overhead systems as a means of fire mitigation, but Southern California Edison noted in its Grid Safety and Resilience Program that hardening overhead systems is only 60% as effective as putting overhead systems underground.

Currently, there are methods to aide municipalities in undergrounding their electrical lines. However, the criteria have remained mostly the same over the years and have not adapted to the changing utility dynamics that may necessitate undergrounding for a wider range of reasons, including wildfire mitigation and environmental protection.

Articles:

Contact:

Megan De Sousa, (916) 651-4037
Megan.DeSousa@sen.ca.gov