Undergrounding Legislation Advances in California Senate

In April, lawmakers in the California State Senate moved forward on legislation requiring all future proposed electric and communications wires near state scenic byways to be buried underground whenever feasible.  Authored by Sen. Mike McGuire (D-002), SB 884 will require all future wires near state scenic byways to be buried underground. The bill will also help  expedite Pacific Gas & Electric’s plan to bury 10,000 miles of its massive network of utility wires underground, particularly in wildfire-prone areas.   

The bill earned a strong endorsement from the Senate Energy Utilities and Communication Committee during its April 18 hearing, passing with a 10-0 vote. To ease the cost burden, the bill forces PG& E, the nation’s largest utility provider, to first use federal infrastructure funds before shifting the costs along to ratepayers and would mandate that telecommunications companies and electrical companies underground their utilities in the same trench.

“With this legislation, we can get PG&E to finally underground the lines most at risk to start a wildfire and… hold them accountable with strict performance metrics. This bill will save ratepayers money and save lives. If PG&E doesn’t hit their performance metrics, the utility would be held accountable,” said Sen. McGuire.

Sen. McGuire further argued that this undergrounding bill would reduce the risk that utility equipment might spark wildfires by 99%. He also cited other benefits, including lower carbon admissions and improving the scenic qualities of the landscape.