California Will Spend $1 Billion on Wildfire Prevention, Give Some Relief to Utility Companies

(TNS) — SACRAMENTO, Calif. — With an eye toward destructive wildfire as California’s most immediate climate emergency, Gov. Jerry Brown took action on Friday to broadly expand state prevention efforts while allowing utility companies to shift some fire-related costs to their customers.

The far-reaching proposal signed by Brown boosts government fire protection efforts by $1 billion over the next five years, providing funds that could help clear thousands of acres of dense, dry forests and brittle coastal brush. The bill’s combination of cash and regulatory relief mark a major escalation in addressing what’s been called the “new normal” of fire danger for the state, far beyond what’s been spent on immediate emergency responses.

Largest Wildfire in California History Officially 100% Contained

Officials announced on Wednesday that the Mendocino Complex Fire, the largest wildfire in California’s history, is now 100 percent contained.

The blaze burned a combined 459,123 acres, destroyed 280 structures including 157 residences, killed one firefighter and injured four others. The Mendocino fire north of San Francisco broke the record set in December, 2017, when the Thomas Fire killed two people, burned 440 square miles and destroyed more than 1,000 buildings in Southern California.

California’s Governor: Insurance Fared Better in Wildfires Bill

California lawmakers didn’t go as far as Governor Jerry Brown wanted to address potential liabilities for utilities from wildfires, and the governor said that “it’s hard to say” if they ever would.

Brown, citing longstanding practice, declined to say if he would sign the bill passed last month that included measures considered beneficial for utilities such as PG&E Corp. But the wide-ranging plan didn’t tackle the issue of inverse condemnation, in which utilities can be held liable for costs if their equipment is found to have caused a fire — regardless of whether they followed safety rules. Brown had pushed a proposal that would have given utilities relief from the rule, which was opposed by insurance companies, trial lawyers and fire victims.

California Cites Garment Contractors $570K, Some Lacked Workers’ Comp

The California Labor Commissioner’s Office has cited six Los Angeles area garment contractors $573,704 for labor law violations after uncovering a scheme where the contractors illegally operated under one license to avoid compliance.

Four of the contractors did not have valid workers’ compensation coverage for their employees.

On the Front Lines of Wildfires, Counties Fear Waning Funding

In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt visited the Yosemite National Park, and described it as “a great solemn cathedral, far vaster and more beautiful than any built by the hand of man.” Residents of Tuolumne County, Calif. like myself are blessed to have that solemn cathedral in our back yard. The wonders of the Yosemite Valley draw millions of tourists to our communities each year to hike, camp and explore this natural treasure.

California Comp Quarterly Report: Written Premium on Pace with Last year, but an Overall Declining Trend

Worker’s compensation rates in California have been going down a while, and that has had an impact on written premium, a report released on Wednesday shows.

The Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California’s report looks at on insurer loss and premium experience valued as of March 31, 2018.

Repair of California’s Oroville Dam Exceeds $1 Billion

(TNS) - The price tag for the 2017 crisis at Oroville Dam has surged past $1 billion.

On Wednesday, the state Department of Water Resources revealed a $1.1 billion cost estimate for the massive repair work at America’s tallest dam. The cost of the emergency response, and the subsequent repairs to the dam’s two flood-control spillways, has periodically risen since officials made their initial estimates following the crisis, which triggered the evacuation of 188,000 residents.

California Bridge Under Construction Gets Sensors to Gather Earthquake Data

A replacement bridge under construction at the second-busiest port in the U.S. isn’t just a crucial route for cargo trucks and Southern California commuters – it’s a concrete-and-steel science experiment for engineers and seismologists.

The new bridge, which will stretch 8,800 feet over the Port of Long Beach, is being built with about 75 seismic sensors that will measure the forces imparted on the span when one of several nearby faults set off an earthquake. It will replace the Gerald Desmond Bridge, though it’s unclear if it will retain that name.

California Lawmakers OK Bill to Help PG&E Pay for Wildfire Costs

California lawmakers passed legislation to help utility giant PG&E Corp. pay for billions of dollars in potential liabilities from wildfires that ravaged Northern California wine country last year.

The state Assembly and Senate approved a wide-ranging plan Friday that includes directing regulators to limit how much PG&E shareholders would cover from the 2017 fires that killed dozens of people. The bill now heads to the desk of Governor Jerry Brown, who has supported helping PG&E dodge fiscal distress.

FDA Says Coffee Doesn’t Deserve California’s Cancer Risk Warning

The top U.S. regulator of food and health products endorsed a plan by California officials to exempt coffee from a state law that would have made Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and other coffee shops add a cancer warning to cups of joe.

The latest research “does not support a cancer warning for coffee,” Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement. Such a label “could mislead consumers to believe that drinking coffee could be dangerous to their health when it actually could provide health benefits,” Gottlieb said. Misleading labeling could also violate federal law, he said.

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