Undergrounding Utilties in Laguna Beach

As I said at my campaign kick off a week ago, the biggest public safety threat to Laguna Beach is wildfires, in particular, wildfires caused by electric power lines.  Just days after the July 3, 2015 fire in the Canyon sparked by a downed SCE power line, I contacted  the President of SCE urging him to partner with us to underground all electric utilities in Laguna Beach on expedited basis. The 2015 fire was the fourth one in the last 9 years sparked by SCE power lines.  With this history, it is clear that above ground electric utilities pose an imminent threat to our lives and property that could strike at any time.  After several meetings, SCE rejected all of our proposals to expedite the undergrounding process in Laguna Beach.

Unwilling to let this issue go, we took the matter to the California Legislature.  In February 2016, our State Senator John Moorlach agreed to introduce a bill to address the need for electric utilities to provide enhanced fire mitigation measures in very high fire hazard severity zones like Laguna Beach.  I have been in Sacramento several times this spring to testify in favor of the bill and to meet with legislators and staff to promote the bill.

I am very pleased to report that on May 31, on a unanimous 35 - 0 vote, the California State Senate passed our legislation which now goes to the Assembly.  In the Assembly  we will seek certain amendments  to allow for local governments in very high fire severity hazard zones to select undergrounding as the preferred fire mitigation measure.

We still have a way to go to get this legislation passed but we have momentum at this point and will continue to push hard for this bill which only seeks to give cities with very high fire risk what they deserve—a safe underground electric utility system.