MOORLACH UPDATE — Snopes is Fired Up — November 14, 2018

Well, well, well. It’s a rare day when one of my UPDATEs gets media attention. But, when a Governor who flies all over the globe, leaving a large carbon footprint in the process, to preach against global warming, vetoes a bill that addresses the reduction of greenhouse gases, I do get fired up (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Fire Prevention Not Embraced — November 13, 2018). Politico did it in their “California Playbook” column. Instead of including the entire column, I’m just providing the brief mention in the first piece below.

The Daily Caller weighs in on the subject in the second piece below. It baffles me that a Governor so consumed with addressing global warming would veto a bill that attempted to reduce wildfires, a major creator or greenhouse gases.

But, would SB 1463 have saved lives if Gov. Brown had signed it? Who’s to know. The answer is an obvious “maybe.” But, if the goal is to reduce greenhouse gases, why not put a little more pressure on the California Public Utilities Commission and CalFire to expedite the process?

In California, Sacramento is managed through legislation. The CPUC and CalFire had more than 8 years to get the job done. I have a community in my District that is in a wildfire zone and lost 441 homes 25 years ago. For the Governor to assume that these two bureaucracies would move at a faster clip is, in my opinion, a serious error in judgment.

What if Malibu would have been ranked as a high-risk area? Or Paradise? Perhaps some form of mitigation may have been pursued by the utility companies. But for an apostle espousing the impacts of climate change to do nothing makes no sense on several levels.

Getting to the bottom of this concern is none other than Snopes. They weigh in with a mixed review in the third piece below. Snopes evaluates a piece by Katy Grimes of the Flashreport back in August of this year (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Spewing Carbon Into The Air — August 8, 2018).

This is the first time I’ve been mentioned in a Snopes piece. It’s unfortunate that they did not contact me or my office in doing their independent research. One wonders if quoting a government bureaucracy that is covering its tracks is a valid refutation. And using terms like “prevalence” and “risk” certainly begs for a longer rebuttal on my part, which may come in a future UPDATE.

If only Governor Brown would have made hardening electrical lines as big a priority as building his high speed rail over the past eight years, just maybe this veto would not have occurred and generated so much social media attention.

California Playbook


California Playbook

Carla Marinucci and Jeremy B. White’s must-read briefing on politics and government in the Golden State

— FIRED UP: Republican state Sen. John Moorlach, in a blog post, argues that Gov. Jerry Brown had a big chance to push for fire prevention in his bill, SB1463 — and vetoed it. “I thought the adventure with my bill to address electric line-caused conflagrations in wildfire zones with SB 1463 (2016) had run its course.” Read it here.




As California Burns, Jerry Brown Takes Heat For Voting Down 2016 Wildfire Mitigation Bill

by Michael Bastasch

  • Critics are attacking California Gov. Jerry Brown for vetoing a 2016 bill aimed at mitigating fire risks from utility equipment.
  • “He has done nothing to harden those assets,” said GOP state Sen. John Moorlach.
  • Wildfires have consumed more than 221,000 acres since Thursday, killing at least 44 people.

California Gov. Jerry Brown’s decision to veto a 2016 bipartisan bill aimed at mitigating wildfire risks from power lines and utility equipment has become the focus of critics as fires rage across the state.

Wildfires have scorched more than 221,000 acres across California since Thursday, and Brown’s critics are pointing to the two-year-old veto as news reports suggest power lines may have sparked the deadliest wildfire in California’s history.

“He has done nothing to harden those assets,” state Sen. John Moorlach, a Republican, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Moorlach sponsored the 2016 bill, called SB 1463, which would have given local governments a bigger role in putting together fire risk maps with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and Cal Fire, the state’s firefighting agency.

The bill also required the CPUC to work with utilities to mitigate wildfire risks, including putting transmission lines underground if necessary. The bill passed through both state legislative chambers, but Brown vetoed the bill in September 2016. Brown said state officials “have been doing just that through the existing proceeding on re-threat maps and re-safety regulations.”

Two years later, Moorlach said the state agencies and utilities have made little progress in mitigating the risk of wildfires faced by communities across the state.

“Well they’ve been working on it for like eight years and they haven’t gotten it done. This is really simple stuff,” Moorlach said. “Utilities are just sort of hanging onto the money.”

Journalist Katy Grimes also criticized Brown’s veto. The conservative journalist tweeted that “Brown had many chances to address CA’s increasing wildfires since his election in 2011, but instead chose to play politics.”

Brown, however, did sign legislation in September that would dedicate some funds raised through California’s cap-and-trade program to forest management. Moorlach support the bill, but said Brown should have acted sooner to mitigate wildfire risks.

Brown has largely framed wildfires as the product of man-made global warming. On Sunday, Brown said “those who deny” global warming contributed to the fires.

Moorlach said Brown’s concern about the climate was “inconsistent” with his 2016 veto.

“Not addressing wildfires has reversed all the work we’ve done to reduce greenhouse gases,” Moorlach told TheDCNF. “It’s inconsistent.”

“It’s sort of become his religion,” Moorlach said of Brown’s global warming fervor.

The 135,000-acre Camp Fire destroyed thousands of structures, including engulfing the entire northern California town of Paradise. The Campre Fire resulted in at least 42 deaths, making it the deadliest blaze in state history.

It’s not clear what exactly caused the fire, but local media reports suggest PG&E power lines may be to blame for the deadly fire.

PG&E said it had problems with a power line minutes before the Camp Fire started. Landowner Betsy Ann Cowley said PG&E needed to access to her property in Pulga because “they were having problems with sparks.” The fire started on Cowley’s land.

Cal Fire also blamed PG&E power lines and equipment for deadly wildfires that ravaged northern California last year. Those 16 fires killed at least 44 people and destroyed hundreds of structures.

In southern California, the 96,000-acre Woolsey Fire killed at least two people as it made its way to the iconic beach city of Malibu. Utility SoCal Edison said “a circuit relayed out of the Chatsworth Substation about two minutes before the blaze broke out,” CNN reported.

SoCal Edison reported to state officials that “at this point we have no indication from fire agency personnel that SCE utility facilities may have been involved in the start of the fire.”

Brown’s office did not respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment.


Did California Governor Jerry Brown Veto a Wildfire Management Bill, Increasing the Risk of Wildfires?



Jerry Brown vetoed a wildfire management bill in 2016, contributing to the prevalence and risk of wildfires in the ensuing two years.



What’s True

In September 2016, Governor Brown vetoed SB 1463, a bill in the California legislature which would have required the California Public Utilities Commission to prioritize areas at increased risk from overhead wires in their management of wildfires.

What’s False

There is no evidence that Brown’s veto contributed to or exacerbated the risk or prevalence of wildfires in California, and the California Public Utilities Commission provided details showing that it had already been engaged in work similar to the proposals contained in SB 1463.


In November 2018, after the Camp Fire broke out in Northern California, killing more than 40 people and destroying thousands of homes, social media users began sharing a three-month-old article that placed a share of the blame for California’s 2018 wildfire season, already one of the most destructive in living memory, at the desk of Governor Jerry Brown.

On 8 August, the “Flash Report” web site, which covers California politics from a conservative-leaning point of view, reported on a piece of legislation from 2016 which was intended to address one aspect of the state’s perennial wildfire problem but was vetoed by Governor Brown, a Democrat. The article carried the headline “CA Gov. Jerry Brown Vetoed Bipartisan Wildfire Management Bill in 2016” and read:

At the request of the City Council of Laguna Beach, Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), authored SB 1463 in 2016, a bipartisan bill which would have given local governments more say in fire-prevention efforts through the Public Utilities Commission proceeding making maps of fire hazard areas around utility lines.

Laguna Beach went through four fires sparked by utility lines in the last ten years, and has done as much in the way of prevention as they could afford. The bill would have allowed cities to work with utilities to underground utility lines, and work with the Public Utilities Commission to develop updated fire maps by requiring the PUC to take into consideration areas in which communities are at risk from the consequences of wildfire — not just those areas where certain environmental hazards are present …

Gov. Brown vetoed SB 1463, despite being passed by the Legislature, 75-0 in the Assembly and 39-0 in the Senate. That tells you this was political. The Governor’s veto message did not properly address why he vetoed the bill. Brown claimed that the [Public Utilities Commission] and CalFire have already been doing what Moorlach’s bill sought to accomplish. How on earth could Brown kill this bill when the state was burning down?

In the context of the Camp Fire in November, Facebook users  shared the Flash Report article widely, with many observers citing it as evidence that Brown bore some of the blame for the many similar wildfires which cost lives and caused massive destruction to property in the intervening two years.

As Flash Report indicated in their August article, Governor Brown did indeed veto Senate Bill 1463 in September 2016, after it had been passed by both houses of the California legislature without a single vote in opposition. That legislation would have had imposed the following requirement:


Section 761.2 is added to the Public Utilities Code, to read:

“In determining areas in which to require enhanced mitigation measures for wildfire hazards posed by overhead electrical lines and equipment, the [Public Utilities Commission], in consultation with the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, shall prioritize areas in which communities are subject to conditions that increase fire hazards associated with overhead utility facilities generally and at specific locations…”

Flash Report was somewhat self-contradictory in their characterization of this veto. On the one hand, the article claimed that Brown “did not properly address” his rationale for refusing to sign the bill, but it also accurately wrote that Brown had said, roughly speaking, he regarded the provisions of the legislation as redundant due to an initiative that was already under way. In his veto message, Brown wrote:

This bill requires the Public Utilities Commission to prioritize areas that have increased fire hazard associated with overhead utility facilities. Since May of last year, the Commission and CalFire have been doing just that through the existing proceeding on fire-threat maps and fire-safety regulations. This deliberative process should continue and the issues this bill seeks to address should be raised in that forum.

The author of the Flash Report article, Katy Grimes, claimed a link between the prevalence of destructive fires in California in recent years and Brown’s decision to veto SB 1463, referencing one of her earlier articles:

Today, as California burns once again under torrential wildfires, many Californians have been asking why the dramatic increase in wildfires in the last five years … that is everyone except Governor Jerry Brown. Governor Brown claims that year-round, devastating fires are the “new normal” we must accept.

Megan Barth and I reported:

“Supporting Obama-era regulations have resulted in the new normal: an endless and devastating fire season. Obama-era regulations introduced excessive layers of bureaucracy that blocked proper forest management and increased environmentalist litigation and costs– a result of far too many radical environmentalists, bureaucrats, Leftist politicians and judicial activists who would rather let forests burn, than let anyone thin out overgrown trees or let professional loggers harvest usable timber left from beetle infestation, or selectively cut timber.”

Mismanaged, overcrowded forests provide fuel to historic California wildfires, experts say. The 129 million dead trees throughout California’s forests are serving as matchsticks and kindling. Jerry Brown, busy mulling ways to prevent the end of the world, took the Clinton and Obama-era gross regulations a step even further when he vetoed a bipartisan wildfire management bill in 2016.

Despite drawing this connection, Grimes’ article did not contain any specific evidence to support the notion that Brown’s vetoing SB 1463 contributed to or exacerbated California’s wildfire problem.

In response to our questions, a spokesperson for Brown directed us to a spokesperson for the California Public Utilities Commission, who outlined in further detail the risk mitigation efforts undertaken as part of the agency’s initiative with CalFire (the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection) and said that the bill Brown vetoed would actually have slowed down that progress:

Senate Bill 1463 would have prolonged the safety work already going on by requiring the participation of certain entities, which was unnecessary because CAL FIRE was already a party to the proceeding, and local governments and fire departments could also participate.

In fact, [at] the time the vetoed legislation was introduced, the CPUC and CAL FIRE were already deeply engaged in an ongoing fire safety rulemaking process (R.15-05-006, Rulemaking to Develop and Adopt Fire-Threat Maps and Fire-Safety Regulations). Phase 1 of this effort began in 2013 and was completed in 2015. Phase 2 implemented new fire safety regulations in high priority areas of the state as called for in the vetoed legislation, thus making the bill redundant. In January 2018, the Statewide Fire-Threat Map was approved.

Further, the CPUC and CAL FIRE signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in August 2017 that further bolstered our relationship. The MOU increased information sharing and investigative resources between the two organizations.

CAL FIRE, as first responders, provides findings and immediate facts to the CPUC. The CPUC follows after the event to conduct in-depth investigations if utility involvement is suspected. Key points of the MOU include: Developing consistent approaches to forest management, wildfire prevention, public safety, and energy programs; Assist one another in preparing for, responding to, and mitigating the effects of wildfires; Deepening awareness of the requirements and goals of each other’s programs; and Creation of Interagency Fire Safety Working Group to vet ideas and develop programmatic solutions to shared goals in the interest of fire safety and resource protection.


·       Grinberg, Emanuella and Holly Yan.   “44 Dead in California Fires as the Camp Fire Becomes the Deadliest in State History.”
CNN.   13 November 2018.

·       Grimes, Katy.   “CA Gov. Jerry Brown Vetoed Bipartisan Wildfire Management Bill in 2016.”   8 August 2018.

·       California Legislature.   “SB 1463 — Electrical Lines: Mitigation of Wildfire Risks.”
29 August 2016.

·       Barth, Megan and Katy Grimes.   “California Burns: the ‘New Normal’ Thanks to Obama Era Environmental Regulations.”   6 August 2018.

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