Gov. Brown vetoes Moorlach’s wildfire-risk bill

Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday vetoed a bill spearheaded by Laguna Beach Councilman Bob Whalen that would have required the state to identify areas most at risk of wildfires caused by overhead utility wires.

SB 1463, authored by state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), also would have required the California Public Utilities Commission and the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, to identify steps that cities must take to prevent fires from overhead electrical equipment, according to the bill.

In a written statement explaining his decision, Brown said a process that began in May 2015 with the utilities commission and Cal Fire is already in place for addressing issues present in SB 1463. The two groups examine fire-threat maps and fire safety regulations on areas with overhead utilities facilities, he wrote.

“This deliberative process should continue, and the issues this bill seeks to address should be raised in that forum,” Brown said.

“Clearly, this is a major disappointment to the city and the other cities and counties that had stepped forward to endorse the bill,” Whalen said in a statement. “This bill would have provided important direction to the [commission] in its current regulatory process concerning fire safety and overhead utility lines.”

Whalen said he remains undeterred.

“We will continue to press the [commission] to hold the utilities accountable for fire safety in areas like Laguna Beach,” he said.

Laguna Beach has experienced four fires sparked by utility lines in the last 10 years, the most recent on July3, 2015, in Laguna Canyon.

Twitter: @AldertonBryce