New laws to protect California

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The state senate signed into law two new bills that will prevent wildfires and oil spills.

Raging wildfires and polluted water motivated the California State Senate to pass two bills last year to the defense of the California Mainland and coastline. Authored by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, Bill 1260 tackles wildfire threat and prevention while Bill 834 hones in on offshore oil drilling. Both bills went into effect at the start of 2019.

Bill 1260, Wildfire Prevention, addresses prescribed burning, the effects of prescribed burns on air quality, and state regulations on prescribed burning. It also authorizes agencies to apply for permits that allow for the use of controlled burns in high risk burn areas. Creators of the bill believe that carefully controlled burns will reduce the risk of wildfires with the added benefit of reducing smoke emissions from catastrophic wildfires. The bill also provides for the installation of air quality monitoring measures in areas around the controlled burns.

In addition, curriculum will be developed or revised by the State Fire Marshal to educate firefighting professionals about fire prevention. The bill also authorizes the creation of a training program for prescribed burn users to certify them as up to California state standards.

Although controlled burns are recognized as a useful, effective fire prevention tactic, they can also be dangerous if not regulated. Bill 1260 brings local agencies up to California State Regulations, an action which codifies regulations across the state. If agencies have stricter regulations than the state standard, then they are allowed to retain them alongside the ones adopted from the state. Groups that own densely thicketed lands may now be authorized to implement fire as a fire reduction method. If so, they must become certified by the state and designate a “fire boss,” a specialist position focusing on the implementation of fire as a prevention tactic.

Bill 834 amends laws allowing for granted state lands to be leased to any oil- or gas-related infrastructure. In other words, it prohibits organizations from acquiring land to build drilling platforms, pipelines, or other related structures in state owned waters or along the coast. California owned-territory extends three nautical miles beyond the outermost islands, reefs, or rocks. Within this area, the bill makes it difficult for federal or private entities to obtain the rights to build any new oil related structures. Bill 834 is attempting to limit the potential for damaging oil spills along the California Coast.

Former Governor Jerry Brown, who was in office when these bills passed, posted the following statement on Twitter on Sep 8, 2018: “Today, California’s message to the Trump administration is simple: Not here, not now. We will not let the federal government pillage public lands and destroy our treasured coast.”


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