'Progressive' Cali Took 9 Years To Make Fire Risk Map


When President Donald Trump took California to task for its wildfire management tactics, the media lost its collective minds.

“There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor,” Trump tweeted Nov. 10.

“Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”

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Trump’s criticism, directed at both the state of California and federal officials, drew a strong and predictable rebuke from the media. After all, they believe there’s only one correct answer to why the California fires happened: climate change.

There’s no actual evidence linking the two directly, mind you, but that’s not the point. Denying that climate change is the only reason for California wildfires makes you a climate change denier.

Well, the problem with that line of thinking is that there’s a very real problem with how various officials have handled risk management when it comes to forest fires. There’s plenty of blame to apportion, but let’s start with the fact that the wonderful progressives in California last made a fire risk map almost a decade ago.

“The California state agency charged with overseeing utility companies took nine years to develop a consistent statewide map designating areas at high risk for destructive power-line fires,” the Washington Free Beacon reported Friday.

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“Seven of those years took place during outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown’s time in office and six were during the tenure of a president of a key state agency who resigned after a series of leadership scandals.

“Longtime critics of the utility companies and their role in sparking some of the state’s worst wildfires are voicing new concerns after reports that PG&E’s transmission line malfunctioned minutes before the start of the Camp Fire, the deadliest, most destructive fire in the state’s history.”

PG&E is Pacific Gas and Electric, a company which provides much of California’s electricity. Part of the problem is that those anti-corporate progressives in Cali were very much willing to let companies like PG&E have a disproportionate say on California Public Utilities Commission.

“We were the only city in the state to participate in the fire-mapping process. It’s a very slow-moving and bureaucratic and byzantine process dominated by the utility companies,” Laguna Beach city council member Bob Whalen said.

“Any suggestion we made was typically voted down 31 to 1,” he said.

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Apparently, part of the problem with California — a state where I’ve noticed, from personal experience, so many of the residents are prone to tweeting out dodgy HuffPo environmentalism articles with “Science!” appended to it — is that the “progressives” won’t actually let experts play any part in fire risk mitigation.

By experts, of course, we mean the kind of people who are usually involved with “Science!”

“To me, what would really take the fire mitigation analysis to a higher level is if you have an independent body of experts involved,” Whelan, whose community is disproportionately affected by wildfires, said.

“The utilities are so familiar with the process and so involved in the day-to-day of it, they really dominate the proceedings.”

Decoupling utilities from CPUC and putting experts in the driver’s seat isn’t exactly a guarantor of success here — consider that this is California, after all, and an “expert” could well be Bill Nye — but it’s certainly a lot better than having a state where utilities are in charge and a new fire risk map hasn’t been undertaken in nearly a decade.

And make no mistake, problems at CPUC go directly back to the governor.

“Brown appointed two of his top aides to serve on the commission in 2016 to help reform it and make it more transparent following a large gas leak in Southern California and the resignation of its former leader after revelations of back-channel dealings related to a deadly pipeline explosion, as well as PG&E’s diversion of money approved for pipeline safety to executive compensation,” the Free Beacon reported.

“In addition, a scathing 2016 audit found lax control over spending, a failure to disclose public records, and board members’ travel at the expense of a nonprofit organization with close ties to the utilities it is supposed to oversee.”

“Despite the scandals, that same year Brown vetoed a wildfire-related bill that would have required the CPUC to work with municipalities to ensure that the utility companies were doing all they could to prevent fires in high-risk areas, arguing it was redundant,” the report noted. “The measure was aimed at speeding up the map-making process and requiring local officials’ input.”

Some progressives they turned out to be.

But no, let’s all criticize the president’s tweet and claim he’s the one living in denial — not the California politicians who bungled CPUC.


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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture