Mad River Union
HUMBOLDT – Assemblymember Jim Wood has told supervisors that state lawmakers are “shocked by PG&E’s lack of understanding of its own power grid and how that affected us here in Humboldt County” and are “deep in discussions about wildfires and PG&E power shutoffs.”
In response, the chair of the Board of Supervisors once again pledged that there will be no more wide-ranging public safety power shutoffs in Humboldt County and reported that a meeting has been held with a high level manager of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E).
The implementation and management of power shutoffs was one of the most attention-getting aspects of Wood’s annual report to supervisors.
“The effects of power shutoffs on individuals and families and businesses have been significant,” he said. “I truly believe PG&E should be compensating customers for those losses – and I’m not talking about a $200 credit on my bill.”
Wood, who lives in Santa Rosa, said he had six power shutoffs and emptied his refrigerator twice but “it’s easier for me than it is for a lot of other folks.”
He added, “We need to be cognizant of the effects on our communities because it is far-reaching” and “we need to also address PG&E’s future by considering what’s the best interest of the public, not PG&E executives and shareholders.”
Board Chair Rex Bohn referred to a “pretty harsh letter” that he and Sheriff Billy Honsal sent to PG&E on Humboldt County’s shutoffs – one of which was admitted to have been unnecessary – and “in less than six weeks we had the president in charge of power generating in a meeting yesterday, up here, with the manager of the Humboldt Bay Generating Station.”
One of the “holdups” on having the local power plant use its generators to power the grid on its own is air quality rules.
Bohn said a power production test will be done this week and he’s convinced that air quality variances can be granted as the county “hasn’t had a bad air day in five years.”
Bohn added that with thousands of personal home generators running when there is a shutoff, ‘I think there’s an offset.”
The PG&E power production president “all but committed” to ensuring use of the local power plant in the future, Bohn continued, and he repeated an assurance he’s made before.
“We will not have these issues next year,” he said. “We will have a power generating station that isn’t just sitting out the power outage, it’s gonna take care of, not all of the county, but the major parts of the grid.”
Wood had also highlighted “the growing number of insurance non-renewals that are happening throughout the state” due to wildfires. Disallowing cancellations within a year of a wildfire is “a step in the right direction,” he continued, but he said more needs to be done.
He described his bill, AB 38, which creates a pilot project to help homeowners with fire resilience and establish standards for doing so.
Wood also told supervisors that he’s heard from many participants in the cannabis industry about “the challenges that they have to become legal and successful.”
Although there have been complaints about that locally, Wood gave supervisors kudos for establishing assistance programs and said Humboldt “really is a model for many other counties.”
A state-level cannabis tax increase will take effect in 2020 and Wood said “we were caught off guard,” as those in the industry have been, by scale of the increase.
State law allows tax increases that are based on inflation, but “I don’t think any of us expected going back to recoup the inflation of 2018 and 2019,” said Wood. “We’re asking questions and we hope to get some answers as to why they chose to do it that way – that was certainly not our intention and not our understanding of the way that things would work out.”
“Is there anything that can be done right now, is there any movement with (the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration) to lower those or defer them out?” asked Supervisor Estelle Fennell.
Wood said there have been several bills “to try and push the taxes down” but there has been “resistance” from the state’s Department of Finance. The bills are stalled, he continued.
“We envisioned the taxes to be much lower but unfortunately, the tax rates that you see are part of Prop. 64 and changing that is a real problem,” Wood said.
Being one of the lawmakers who developed initial rules for medicinal cannabis, Wood said a “much simpler, more streamlined, easy to accomplish process that didn’t break the bank for people” was envisioned but “it hasn’t worked out that way, unfortunately.”
But some near future regulatory improvements are in process.
“There have been discussions in Sacramento that appear to reveal that the administration is going to be looking at making some modifications in the structure of how cannabis is regulated,” Wood said, adding that the changes will “positively affect” the situation.
Wood is developing legislation to “restore micro-businesses as we first understood them” and “make them a tool to allow North Coast cannabis businesses to thrive in the marketplace.”
With Senator Mike McGuire, Wood is also working on a law to allow “regulation and enforcement of appellations of origin.”
Wood chairs the Assembly Health Committee and he outlined his work on bills that control the pharmaceutical industry and its prices, require electronic logging of prescriptions and allow nurse practitioners to work without being supervised by physicians who are in short supply in rural areas.