(SACRAMENTO, CA) – Following Governor Gavin Newsom’s action to declare the week of May 2, “Wildfire Preparedness Week”, the California State Assembly today approved AB 1403 by Assemblymember Marc Levine (D – Marin County), which authorizes a governor or local government to declare a state or local emergency due to a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS). The measure was approved on a bipartisan vote of 62 to 0.

The 2018, 2019 and 2020 wildfire seasons have been some of the most devastating in the state’s history, including the 2018 Paradise Camp Fire, the single-deadliest wildfire in California’s history, and the 2020 wildfire season, producing the largest wildfire in California’s modern history. In October 2019, PG&E initiated a PSPS, forcing blackouts on over 2 million Californians, preventing 130,000 students from attending school and causing economic losses estimated in the billions. After that event, PG&E’s then CEO William Johnson speculated that these blackout events could occur for another decade. While millions across the state were without power, the governor was forced to delay emergency response efforts because a PSPS event, a planned energy outage, did not meet the criteria of a state of emergency.

AB 1403 would add planned deenergization events to the list of conditions constituting a state of emergency declared by a governor or a local emergency declared by a local government.  This clarification is helpful to provide greater flexibility to local agencies to respond to PSPS events and to seek financial assistance from the state to recover costs associated with those activities.

“Heading into what could be another devastating wildfire season, California needs more tools to protect lives and property across the state,” said Assemblymember Levine. “As the climate crisis rages on, AB 1403 will bolster our wildfire preparedness efforts and help mitigate impacts caused by the generational neglect of electrical infrastructure by PG&E and others. For decades PG&E prioritized shareholder profit over ratepayer and public safety. The climate crisis has only exacerbated the impacts of PG&E’s neglect. We must continue to exert pressure on PG&E to ensure that our environment, our businesses, our homes and the lives of Californians are not sacrificed for PG&E’s willful neglect and greed.”

AB 1403 now heads to the State Senate for further consideration.