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SB-396 Forestry: electrical transmission or distribution lines: clearances: notice and opportunity to be heard.(2021-2022)

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Date Published: 09/04/2021 04:00 AM
SB396:v96#DOCUMENT

Amended  IN  Assembly  September 03, 2021
Amended  IN  Assembly  July 12, 2021
Amended  IN  Assembly  June 30, 2021

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2021–2022 REGULAR SESSION

Senate Bill
No. 396


Introduced by Senator Dahle
(Principal coauthor: Assembly Member Mayes)

February 11, 2021


An act to add Section 15478 to the Government Code, and to amend Sections Section 4295.5 and 4428 of the Public Resources Code, relating to forestry.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


SB 396, as amended, Dahle. Forestry: electrical transmission or distribution lines: clearances: notice and opportunity to be heard: internal combustion engines: fire toolbox. heard.

Existing law prohibits any person, except as specified, from using or operating any vehicle, machine, tool, or equipment powered by an internal combustion engine operated on hydrocarbon fuels, in any industrial operation located on or near any forest, brush, or grass-covered land between April 1 and December 1 of any year, or at any other time when ground litter and vegetation will sustain combustion permitting the spread of fire, without providing and maintaining, for firefighting purposes only, suitable and serviceable tools, as prescribed. Existing law requires a sealed box of tools to be located within the operating area and accessible in the event of a fire, which fire toolbox shall contain: one backpack pump-type fire extinguisher filled with water, 2 axes, 2 McLeod fire tools, and a sufficient number of shovels so that each employee at the operation can be equipped to fight fire.

This bill would require a dedicated set of tools to be located within the operating area and accessible in the event of a fire, which fire toolbox shall contain: a sufficient number of fire extinguishers, axes, 2 McLeod fire tools, and shovels so that, when added to any other tools on the industrial operation, each employee at the operation can be equipped to fight fire. The bill would make other nonsubstantive changes to these provisions.

Existing law authorizes any person who owns, controls, operates, or maintains any electrical transmission or distribution line to traverse land as necessary, regardless of land ownership or express permission to traverse land from the landowner, after providing notice and an opportunity to be heard to the landowner, to prune trees to maintain clearances, as provided, and to abate, by pruning or removal, any hazardous, dead, rotten, diseased, or structurally defective live trees. Existing law authorizes this abatement at the full discretion of the person that owns, controls, operates, or maintains the electrical transmission or distribution lines, except for certain applicable minimum clearance requirements for those lines.
Under existing law, the Public Utilities Commission, which has regulatory authority over public utilities, including electrical corporations, has established additional vegetation management requirements.
This bill would revise and recast those provisions related to electrical lines and abatement activities for a person who owns, controls, operates, or maintains an electrical transmission or distribution line, specifying that abatement activities covered by this law include felling, cutting, or trimming trees. The bill would explicitly require all these line clearance and tree pruning and abatement activities to comply with the commission’s vegetation management rules, if applicable. The bill would delete an explicit statement that this electrical line access authorization provides no relief from liability for the removal of vegetation, unless that removal is covered by an applicable easement. The bill would require the identification of hazardous, dead, rotten, diseased, leaning, or structurally defective live trees that are to be felled, cut, or trimmed to be accomplished by a certified arborist or by using a tree evaluation tool or method, as provided. The bill would require any trees that are felled, cut, or trimmed, as provided, to remain on the property of the landowner landowner, as specified, and would require the person who owns, controls, operates, or maintains an electrical transmission or distribution line to preserve, to the extent feasible, any potential value of the timber or wood left onsite, unless the landowner timely requests the removal of the timber or wood within a week of felling, cutting, or trimming, in which case, the timber or wood is to be removed at no cost to the landowner.
The California Energy Infrastructure Safety Act establishes the Office of Energy Infrastructure Safety within the Natural Resources Agency and provides that, on and after July 1, 2021, the office is the successor to, and is vested with, all of the duties, powers, and responsibilities of the Wildfire Safety Division of the commission.
This bill would require the office, on or before July 1, 2022, January 1, 2024, to develop, through a public process, standardized content to be used to satisfy the landowner notice requirement for vegetation abatement and trimming activities, including a description of the process that the person who owns, controls, operates, or maintains an electrical transmission or distribution line must provide for a landowner to exercise the opportunity to be heard, as specified, when challenging the proposed traversal of land and any felling, cutting, or trimming of trees; standardized content to be used by a landowner to request the removal of timber or wood, as specified; and recommendations for the promotion by specified entities, and at locations, for the planting of appropriate tree and shrub species near electrical infrastructures. The bill would require the person who owns, controls, operates, or maintains an electrical transmission or distribution line to make a good faith effort to communicate the processes of vegetation abatement and trimming activities, as provided, to the landowner before the release of the standardized content.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: NO  

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


SECTION 1.

 Section 15478 is added to the Government Code, to read:

15478.
 (a) On or before July 1, 2022, January 1, 2024, the office shall develop, through a public process, all of the following:

(a)Standardized

(1) Standardized content for a letter, door hanger, or other means of notification that the person who owns, controls, operates, or maintains an electrical transmission or distribution line shall use to satisfy the landowner notice requirement described in subdivision (a) of Section 4295.5 of the Public Resources Code. The content shall include a description of the process available for that the person who owns, controls, operates, or maintains an electrical transmission or distribution line must provide the landowner to exercise the opportunity to be heard, established in subdivision (a) of Section 4295.5 of the Public Resources Code, related to the proposed traversal of land and any felling, cutting, or trimming of trees.

(b)

(2) Standardized content for use by a landowner to request the removal of timber or wood as described in paragraph (1) of subdivision (c) (b) of Section 4295.5 of the Public Resources Code.

(c)

(3) Recommendations for the promotion by entities, including, but not limited to, electric utilities, and at locations, including, but not limited to, relevant retail stores, for the planting of appropriate tree and shrub species near electrical infrastructures. Appropriate tree and shrub species shall be tree and shrub species that, if planted in the vicinity of electrical transmission and distribution lines, cannot encroach within the vicinity of overhead conductors such that an electrical utility would need to perform vegetation management to mitigate wildfire risk.
(b) Nothing in this section shall require the office to inspect or enforce Section 4292, 4293, or 4295.5 of the Public Resources Code or participate in any opportunity to be heard by request of a landowner.
(c) Before the release of the standardized content, the person who owns, controls, operates, or maintains an electrical transmission or distribution line shall make a good faith effort to communicate the processes established in Section 4295.5 of the Public Resources Code to a landowner.

SEC. 2.Section 4295.5 of the Public Resources Code is amended to read:
4295.5.

(a)Notwithstanding any other law, including Section 4295, a person who owns, controls, operates, or maintains an electrical transmission or distribution line may traverse land as necessary, regardless of land ownership or express permission to traverse land from the landowner, after providing notice and an opportunity to be heard to the landowner, to fell, cut, or trim trees to maintain clearances pursuant to Section 4293, or, if applicable, Rule 35 of the Public Utilities Commission’s General Order 95, and to abate, by felling, cutting, or trimming, any hazardous, dead, rotten, diseased, leaning, or structurally defective live trees. The felling, cutting, and trimming of these trees, and the clearances obtained when felling, cutting, or trimming of trees, shall be at the full discretion of the person that owns, controls, operates, or maintains an electrical transmission or distribution line, but shall not be less than what is required in Section 4293, and, if applicable, Rule 35 of the Public Utilities Commission’s General Order 95. This section shall apply to both high fire threat districts, as determined by the Public Utilities Commission pursuant to its rulemaking authority, and to state responsibility areas.

(b)Identification of hazardous, dead, rotten, diseased, leaning, or structurally defective live trees that are to be felled, cut, or trimmed pursuant to this section or Section 4292 or 4293 shall be accomplished by an arborist certified by the International Society of Arboriculture, or using a tree evaluation tool or method, developed or approved by an arborist certified by the International Society of Arboriculture and included in the wildfire mitigation plan required pursuant to Sections 8386 and 8387 of the Public Utilities Code.

(c)(1)Trees that are felled, cut, or trimmed pursuant to this section or Section 4292 or 4293 shall remain on the property of the landowner and the person who owns, controls, operates, or maintains an electrical transmission or distribution line shall, to the extent feasible, preserve any potential value of the timber or wood left onsite unless the removal of the timber or wood is timely requested by the landowner within a week of felling, cutting, or trimming, in which case the person shall remove the timber or wood at no cost to the landowner. Nothing in this paragraph shall interfere with agreements made between the landowner and the person who owns, controls, operates, or maintains an electrical transmission or distribution line to specify how timber or wood is left or removed and how its value is preserved.

(2)The person who owns, controls, operates, or maintains an electrical transmission or distribution line shall comply with all applicable laws and regulations, including the forest practices rules, when removing or leaving timber or wood pursuant to this section or Section 4292 or 4293.

SEC. 3.Section 4428 of the Public Resources Code is amended to read:
4428.

No person, except any member of an emergency crew or except the driver or owner of any service vehicle owned or operated by or for, or operated under contract with, a publicly or privately owned utility, which is used in the construction, operation, removal, or repair of the property or facilities of the utility when engaged in emergency operations, shall use or operate any vehicle, machine, tool, or equipment powered by an internal combustion engine operated on hydrocarbon fuels in any industrial operation located on or near any forest, brush, or grass-covered land between April 1 and December 1 of any year, or at any other time when ground litter and vegetation will sustain combustion permitting the spread of fire, without providing and maintaining, for firefighting purposes only, suitable and serviceable tools in the amounts, manner, and location prescribed in this section.

(a)On any industrial operation, a dedicated set of tools shall be located within the operating area, at a point accessible in the event of fire. This fire toolbox shall contain a sufficient number of fire extinguishers, axes, McLeod fire tools, and shovels so that, when added to any other tools on the operation, each employee at the operation can be equipped to fight fire.

(b)One or more serviceable chainsaws of three and one-half or more horsepower with a cutting bar 20 inches in length or longer shall be immediately available within the operating area, or, in the alternative, a full set of timber-felling tools shall be located in the fire toolbox described in subdivision (a), including one crosscut falling saw six feet in length, one double-bit ax with a 36-inch handle, one sledge hammer or maul with a head weight of six or more pounds and handle length of 32 inches or more, and not less than two falling wedges.

(c)Each rail speeder and passenger vehicle used on the operation shall be equipped with one shovel and one ax, and any other vehicle used on the operation shall be equipped with one shovel. Each tractor used on the operation shall be equipped with one shovel.

(d)As used in this section:

(1)“Vehicle” means a device by which any person or property may be propelled, moved, or drawn over any land surface, excepting a device moved by human power or used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks.

(2)“Passenger vehicle” means a vehicle that is self-propelled, designed for carrying not more than 10 persons including the driver, and used or maintained for the transportation of persons, but does not include any motortruck or truck tractor.

SEC. 2.

 Section 4295.5 of the Public Resources Code is amended to read:

4295.5.
 (a) Notwithstanding any other law, including Section 4295, a person who owns, controls, operates, or maintains an electrical transmission or distribution line may traverse land as necessary, regardless of land ownership or express permission to traverse land from the landowner, after providing notice and an opportunity to be heard to the landowner, to prune fell, cut, or trim trees to maintain clearances pursuant to Section 4293, or, if applicable, Rule 35 of the Public Utilities Commission’s General Order 95, and to abate, by pruning or removal, felling, cutting, or trimming, any hazardous, dead, rotten, diseased, leaning, or structurally defective live trees. The felling, cutting, and trimming of these trees, and the clearances obtained when the pruning is performed felling, cutting, or trimming of trees, shall be at the full discretion of the person that owns, controls, operates, or maintains any an electrical transmission or distribution line, but shall not be no less than what is required in Section 4293. 4293, and, if applicable, Rule 35 of the Public Utilities Commission’s General Order 95. This section shall apply to both high fire threat districts, as determined by the California Public Utilities Commission pursuant to its rulemaking authority, and to state responsibility areas.

(b)Subdivision (a) does not exempt a person who owns, controls, operates, or maintains an electrical transmission or distribution line from liability for damages for the removal of vegetation that is not covered by an easement granted to the person for the electrical transmission or distribution line.

(b) Trees that are felled, cut, or trimmed pursuant to this section or Section 4292 or 4293 shall remain on the property of the landowner and the person who owns, controls, operates, or maintains an electrical transmission or distribution line shall, to the extent feasible, preserve any potential value of the timber or wood left onsite unless the removal of the timber or wood is timely requested by the landowner within a week of felling, cutting, or trimming, in which case the person shall remove the timber or wood at no cost to the landowner. The person may leave slash and woody debris that have been chipped and has, at maximum, a post-harvest depth of 18 inches above the ground, except within 150 feet from an approved and legally permitted structure that complies with the California Building Standards Code. Nothing in this paragraph shall interfere with agreements made between the landowner and the person who owns, controls, operates, or maintains an electrical transmission or distribution line to specify how timber or wood is left or removed and how its value is preserved.