Last Wednesday, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) announced it would underground electric lines in areas damaged by the Paradise Camp Fire, at its own expense. This is great news, and praise should be given to PG&E for their leadership. Let’s hope its example and continued political pressure will encourage So Cal Edison and SDG&E to follow suit in Southern California high fire threat areas Praise also goes to Republican State Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) who is working on Senate Bill 584 to promote undergrounding of utilities by expediting unused Rule 20A credits to assist in undergrounding in high fire threat areas, including Laguna Canyon Road. Rule 20A credits are a form of financial assistance in the form of credits to local governments to facilitate undergrounding projects. Currently Laguna is allocated only limited Rule 20A credits and has to purchase additional credits from other cities who don’t need or use them. SB 584 would direct electrical corporations to reallocate Rule 20A credits to cities like Laguna and would require SDG&E and SCE to develop and administer programs to provide matching funds to local jurisdictions for undergrounding projects. This would give Laguna new tools to use more Rule 20A credits and get some matching funds for undergrounding. Other tools in our toolbox include that our city should be actively encouraging local neighborhoods to form an assessment district to underground their own neighborhoods, like Bluebird Canyon, for both safety and their own aesthetics/view improvement, seeking matching funds from Cal-Trans and the County, federal and state grants, and setting aside funds from our $100 Million budget, to get the undergrounding job done, paying as we go.
Collectively, a great common-sense solution without raising taxing on residents. Let’s hope more common sense and fiscally responsible solutions like this are thoroughly explored before raising the fear flag and hitting the “must raise taxes” button. If passed, SB 584 would go into effect immediately. Let’s hope the powers that be in Sacramento get this bill passed ASAP. It’s a win-win and should be a no brainer.
Jennifer Zeiter, Laguna Beach