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SB-1348 Fire prevention: vegetation management: public education: grants. (2019-2020)

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Date Published: 02/21/2020 09:00 PM
SB1348:v99#DOCUMENT


CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2019–2020 REGULAR SESSION

Senate Bill
No. 1348


Introduced by Senator Stern

February 21, 2020


An act to amend Sections 4124.5 and 4799.05 of the Public Resources Code, relating to fire prevention.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


SB 1348, as introduced, Stern. Fire prevention: vegetation management: public education: grants.
Existing law requires the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to establish a local assistance grant program for fire prevention activities in the state. Exiting law requires that the eligible activities include, among other things, fire prevention activities, as provided.
This bill would also specifically include vegetation management along roadways and driveways and public education outreach regarding home and community wildfire resistance, as provided, as part of the eligible activities, as provided.
Existing law requires the Director of Forestry and Fire Protection to provide grants to, or enter into contracts or other cooperative agreements with, specified entities for the implementation and administration of projects and programs to improve forest health and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Existing law requires all moneys, except for fines and penalties, collected by the State Air Resources Board, as part of a market-based compliance mechanism to reduce air emissions, to be deposited in the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund and to be available upon appropriation by the Legislature. Existing law requires that any project or program described above that is funded with moneys from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund complies with all statutory and program requirements applicable to the use of moneys from the fund.
This bill would authorize any project or program described above, or any grant, funded from the Greenhouse Reduction Fund, to include projects or programs for vegetation management along roadways and driveways, including defensible space training, as well as public education outreach regarding home and community wildfire resistance, as provided.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 Section 4124.5 of the Public Resources Code is amended to read:

4124.5.
 (a) The department shall establish a local assistance grant program for fire prevention activities in California. Groups eligible for grants shall include, but are not limited to, local agencies, resource conservation districts, fire safe councils, the California Conservation Corps, certified local conservation corps, University of California Cooperative Extension, Native American tribes, and qualified nonprofit organizations. The department may establish a cost-share requirement for one or more categories of projects.
(b) The local assistance grant program shall establish a robust year-round fire prevention effort in and near fire threatened communities. The department shall prioritize, to the extent feasible, projects that are multiyear efforts.
(c) Eligible activities shall include, but not be limited to, all of the following:
(1) Development and implementation of public education and outreach programs. Programs may include technical assistance, workforce recruitment and training, and equipment purchases.
(2) Fire prevention activities as defined in Section 4124.
(3) Projects to improve compliance with defensible space requirements as required by Section 4291 through increased inspections and assistance for low-income residents.
(4) Technical assistance to local agencies to improve fire prevention and reduce fire hazards.
(5) Creation of additional “Firewise USA” communities in the state or other community planning or certification programs deemed as appropriate by the department.
(6) Projects to improve public safety, including, but not limited to, access to emergency equipment and improvements to public evacuation routes.
(7) Vegetation management along roadways and driveways to reduce fire risk including defensible space training.
(8) Public education outreach regarding making homes and communities more wildfire resistant.
(d) The department may consider the fire risk of an area, the geographic balance of projects, and whether the project is complementary to other fire prevention or forest health activities when awarding local assistance grants.
(e) (1) Until January 1, 2024, the director may authorize advance payments from a grant awarded pursuant to this section. The advance shall not exceed 25 percent of the total grant award.
(2) The grantee shall expend the funds from the advance payment within six months of receipt, unless the department waives this requirement.
(3) The grantee shall file an accountability report with the department four months from the date of receiving the funds and every four months thereafter.
(f) The department may expand or amend an existing grant program to meet the requirements of this section.
(g) Funding for the local assistance grant program created pursuant to this section shall be made upon appropriation by the Legislature.

SEC. 2.

 Section 4799.05 of the Public Resources Code is amended to read:

4799.05.
 (a) (1) The director may provide grants to, or enter into contracts or other cooperative agreements with, entities, including, but not limited to, private or nongovernmental entities, Native American tribes, or local, state, and federal public agencies, for the implementation and administration of projects and programs to improve forest health and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
(2) (A) Until January 1, 2024, the director may authorize advance payments to a nonprofit organization, a local agency, a special district, a private forest landowner, or a Native American tribe from a grant awarded pursuant to this section. No single advance payment shall exceed 25 percent of the total grant award.
(B) (i) The grantee shall expend the funds from the advance payment within six months of receipt, unless the department waives this requirement.
(ii) The grantee shall file an accountability report with the department four months from the date of receiving the funds and every four months thereafter.
(C) (i) The department shall provide a report to the Legislature on or before January 1, 2023, on the outcome of the department’s use of advance payments.
(ii) A report submitted pursuant to this subparagraph shall be submitted in compliance with Section 9795 of the Government Code.
(iii) The requirement for submitting a report imposed under clause (i) is inoperative on January 1, 2027, pursuant to Section 10231.5 of the Government Code.
(b) (1) Any project or program described in this section that is funded with moneys from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, created pursuant to Section 16428.8 of the Government Code, shall comply with all statutory and program requirements applicable to the use of moneys from the fund.
(2) Any project or program described in this section, or any grant funded from the Greenhouse Reduction Fund, created pursuant to Section 16428.8 of the Government Code, may include projects or programs for vegetation management along roadways and driveways to reduce fire risk, including defensible space training, as well as public education outreach regarding making homes and communities more wildfire resistant.
(c) Moneys appropriated to the department for landscape-scale projects shall be allocated as follows:
(1) To subsidize the removal of small diameter material, especially surface fuels and ladder fuels, as well as dead trees, in order to help develop markets for beneficial uses of the material, including, but not limited to, animal bedding, biochar, cross-laminated timber, mulch, oriented strand board, pulp, post, shredding, and veneer products.
(2) For multiple benefit projects, such as tree thinning, carbon sequestration, forest resilience, and improved ecological outcome projects, including, but not limited to, restoring watershed health and function and supporting biodiversity and wildlife adaptation to climate change. The department shall give grant funding priority to landowners who practice uneven aged forest management with a resilient forest of diverse age, size, and species class within the boundaries of the project and whose activities are conducted pursuant to an approved timber harvest plan, nonindustrial timber harvest plan, or working forest management plan. An application for a grant for a project under this subparagraph shall include a description of how the proposed project will increase average stem diameter and provide other site-specific improvement to forest complexity, as demonstrated by the expansion of the variety of tree age classes and species persisting for a period of at least 50 years. The department shall also give funding priority to landowners who agree to long-term forest management goals prescribed by the department.
(3) For activities on national forest lands to increase tree stand heterogeneity, create forest openings of less than one acre, and increase average tree stand diameter of residual trees. Any grants provided under this subparagraph shall be approved by the department, in collaboration with appropriate state agencies, including the State Air Resources Board.
(d) (1) Division 13 (commencing with Section 21000) does not apply to prescribed fire, thinning, or fuel reduction projects undertaken on federal lands to reduce the risk of high-severity wildfire that have been reviewed under the federal National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. Sec. 4321) if either of the following is satisfied:
(A) The primary role of a state or local agency is providing funding or staffing for those projects.
(B) A state or local agency is undertaking those projects pursuant to the federal Good Neighbor Authority (Public Law 113-79) or a stewardship agreement with the federal government entered into pursuant to Public Law 113-79.
(2) Division 13 (commencing with Section 21000) does not apply to the issuance of a permit or other project approval by a state or local agency for projects described in paragraph (1).
(3) This section does not alter, affect, or in any way diminish the authority of a state or local agency to impose mitigation measures or conditions on projects described in paragraph (1) pursuant to other laws or regulations.
(4) Commencing December 31, 2019, and annually thereafter, the department shall report to the relevant policy committees of the Legislature the number of times the process in this subdivision was used.
(5) (A) This subdivision shall remain operative only if the Secretary of the Natural Resources Agency certifies on or before January 1 of each year that the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 or other federal laws that affect the management of federal forest lands in California have not been substantially amended on or after August 31, 2018.
(B) Any CEQA exemption established under this subdivision shall continue in effect for those projects conducted under a National Environmental Policy Act record of decision, finding of no significant impact, or notice of exemption or exclusion that was issued prior to the date by which the Secretary determines that the National Environmental Policy Act or federal forest management laws were substantially amended.
(6) This subdivision shall become inoperative on January 1, 2023.