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September 29, 2022

Budget and Legislative Update – As of September 29, 2022

By Brian White, KP Public Affairs
2022 Brings Good News for Forest Legislation as Climate Change Bills Dominate End-of-Session
For the 2022 legislative session, the Legislature sent nearly 900 bills to Governor Newsom on various subjects, and he had until September 30 to either sign or veto them. As the session ended on August 30, climate change bills took center stage as the governor pushed a package of bills that seek to cement California’s nation-leading role in climate policy. This included legislation to codify the state’s carbon neutrality goals by 2045, and legislation requiring state agencies to expedite their compliance in meeting the state’s 60% renewable portfolio standard by 2030 and a 100% clean energy standard by 2045. Other bills will require mandatory setbacks for new oil production wells from neighborhoods and establish a process for implementing carbon capture and storage.

For the forest sector, the Legislature passed several policy and budget bills to provide more resources for forest management and fire prevention programs, including the California Forest Improvement Program (CFIP). The budget bills take effect immediately, but most other policy bills that were signed into law will take effect January 1, 2023. In the area of forestry and resources policy, the governor signed bills to extend the THP forest fire prevention exemption (AB 522); extended the CEQA exemption for prescribed fire projects (AB 211); extended for five years a requirement that utilities purchase biomass energy (SB 1109); and established a $20 million Prescribed Fire Liability Pilot Program and Fire Claims Fund. At the same time, there were also several other forest management bills that were vetoed or failed to move due to concerns expressed by the governor and legislators about fiscal costs or impacts to landowners. This included legislation that would have required payment of prevailing wage for any publicly funded fuel reduction work to address fire mitigation; and legislation that would have allowed utilities to cut trees on private land without heeding requirements of the Forest Practice Act (SB 396). Any bill that failed may come back next year as a newly introduced bill when the Legislature reconvenes for the 2023-24 legislative session beginning on December 5th where it’s expected at least 30 new legislators will be elected to replace termed out legislators and others who took early resignations. In the meantime, below are updates on the key bills FLC monitored in 2022:

  • AB 179 (Ting) budget appropriation bill which among other things, does the following: 1) provides $10 million to CalFire for the Forest Improvement Program (CFIP) for small farmers; 2) appropriates $13 million for CalOES to fund home hardening; 3) provides $4 million to CalFire and University of California for land use planning and public outreach related to wildfire prevention; 4) $5 million to CalFire for State demonstration forests; 5) $20 million to the Department of Conservation for regional forest capacity; and 6) $4 million to CARB and State Water Board for prescribed fire and water permitting. Status: Signed by Governor. Status: Watch.
  • AB 211 (Ting) end-of-session budget trailer bill which, among other things, 1) extends, for an additional three years (until 2026) a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) exemption for prescribed fire, thinning, or fuel reduction projects on federal lands; and 2) requires a local agency to designate moderate and high fire hazard severity zones within 120 days of receiving recommendation from the State Fire Marshall. Status: Signed by Governor. Position: Support for CEQA extension, Watch for Other Provisions.
  • AB 267 (Valladares) extends for an additional five years (until 2028), a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) exemption for prescribed fire, thinning, or fuel reduction projects on federal lands (Note: see AB 211 which includes similar language and takes effect immediately). Status: Held on Senate Inactive File (Dead). Position: Support
  • AB 522 (Fong) extends the forest fire prevention exemption from five years after the effective date of emergency regulations adopted by the Board of Forestry (BOF), which is February 19, 2024, until January 1, 2026. Status: Signed by Governor. Position: Support
  • AB 1154 (Patterson) exempts from CEQA an egress route project to improve emergency access to and evacuation from a subdivision without a secondary egress route if the subdivision has been identified by the BOF, and the BOF recommends the creation of a secondary access to the subdivision. Status: Held In Senate Appropriations (Dead). Position: Support
  • AB 1717 (Aguiar-Curry) beginning January 1, 2024, expands the definition of public works, for which prevailing wage must be paid to workers, to include publicly funded fuel reduction work paid for in whole or in part by public funds as part of a fire mitigation project. This would include residential chipping, rural road fuel breaks, fire breaks, and vegetation management. Status: Vetoed by Governor. Position: Oppose
  • AB 2278 (Kalra) requires the Secretary of the Natural Resources Agency to prepare and submit, beginning on or before March 31, 2024, an annual report to the Legislature on the progress toward achieving the goal to conserve 30% of state lands and coastal waters by 2030, as established by Governor Newsom’s 2020 executive order. Status: Signed by Governor. Position: Watch
  • AB 2322 (Wood) requires the Building Standards Commission (BSC) to adopt, approve, codify, and publish mandatory building standards for fire resistance based on occupancy risk categories in very high, high, and moderate California fire severity zones in state responsibility areas, and local responsibility areas. Status: Singed by Governor. Position: Watch
  • AB 2377 (Muratsuchi) requires the Secretary of Natural Resources to be responsible for consulting with the State Water Board, Department of Fish and Wildlife, CALFIRE, and the Board of Forestry in coordinating and synchronizing all necessary permits and agreements for forest management, wildfire prevention, and fuel reduction, including a goal of treating 500,000 acres annually by 2025. Status: Held in Senate Appropriations (Dead). Position: Watch
  • AB 2878 (Aguiar-Curry) establishes the Forest Biomass Waste Utilization Program to develop an implementation plan for using biomass waste, including requiring the CPUC to adopt measures to use biomass waste that could support rural microgrids; provide incentives for electricity and pipeline interconnection for forest biomass projects; and consider increasing the megawatt cap of the Bioenergy Market Adjusting Tariff. Status: Held In Senate Appropriations (Dead). Position: Support
  • SB 396 (Bradford) would have established a process for an electrical corporation that owns, controls, operates, or maintains an electrical transmission and distribution line to cut, fell, or trim trees where the electrical corporation does not have existing rights or express permission to do so. While amendments in the bill would have required that all cutting be done in compliance with the Forest Practice Act (FPA) and Forest Practice Rules (FPRs), several forest industry groups continued to oppose the bill because the sponsor (PG&E) was noncommittal in its public statements that it would comply with the FPA and FPRs in instances involving vegetation management work done on privately owned timberlands. Status: Held On Senate Inactive File (Dead). Position: Oppose
  • SB 926 (Dodd) requires CALFIRE, on or before January 1, 2023, to establish the Prescribed Fire Liability Pilot Program (PFL Pilot Program) and a $20 million Prescribed Fire Claims Fund (Fund) to support coverage for losses from permitted prescribed fires by individuals and nonpublic entities. The Legislature enacted FLC-supported prescribed burn liability relief bill in 2021 (SB 332 – Dodd), so this funding for a pilot program would help implement that legislation. Status: Signed by Governor. Position: Support
  • SB 1109 (Caballero) extends requirements on electrical corporations and community choice aggregators (CCAs) to procure energy from biomass generating electric facilities by five years and requires extension of existing contracts by five years. While recent amendments deleted the increase of the additional 100 MW due to concerns raised by utilities and the Senate Energy Committee, it is still a good bill. Status: Signed by Governor. Position: Support

Copies of bills can be viewed at www.leginfo.ca.gov

Track Bills by visiting http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov and use the Quick Bill Search function.

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Appellate Decision on WFMP Case

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Good News -- Exemptions and NTMPs

CAL FIRE has reversed its policy change regarding the acceptance of exemptions for NTMPs. Please refer to the link below to view the letter from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Ken Pimlott) to the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection (Keith Gilless).

Should you have any questions, please send an email to the FLC Legislative Committee at legchair@forestlandowners.org.
Letter and Supporting Content from CAL FIRE to Board of Forestry

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Legislative Committee Assignments

Public Policy Institute of California

The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) issued a report in mid-September on the status of forest health in the Headwaters Forests. On September 20, there was a panel debriefing on the report. Click on the links below to download the documents.

If you are interested in wathcing the panel debrief, the video is posted on the PPIC's website:

Agency and Advocacy Letters