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Allocating Utility Wildfire Costs: Options and Issues for Consideration


The 2019-20 Budget: California Spending Plan—Resources and Environmental Protection

October 17, 2019 - The 2019-20 budget includes over $12 billion for the state’s natural resources and environmental protection programs. This post describes budgetary actions related to the annual cap-and-trade expenditure plan, support for a new safe and affordable drinking water program, funding for a variety of wildfire prevention and response activities, as well as other significant changes.


The 2020-21 Budget: Governor's Wildfire-Related Proposals

February 21, 2020 - While wildfires have always been a natural part of California’s ecosystems, recent increases in the severity of wildfires and the adverse impacts on communities have increased the focus on the state’s ability to effectively prevent, mitigate, and respond to wildfire risks. This report has two parts. First, we assess the state’s approach to addressing wildfire risks in light of the complex challenges that make an efficient and effective approach difficult. Second, we evaluate the Governor’s various wildfire‑related budget proposals in the absence of having a statewide strategic wildfire plan.


[PDF] The 2019-20 Budget: Natural Resources and Environmental Protection

February 14, 2019 - In this report, we assess several of the Governor’s budget proposals in the natural resources and environmental protection areas. Based on our review, we recommend various changes, as well as additional legislative oversight. We provide a complete listing of our recommendations at the end of this report.


The 2023-24 Budget: Proposed Energy Policy Changes

March 10, 2023 - This brief considers the Governor’s proposals to (1) establish a new central procurement role for the state to secure energy resources, and (2) require electric utilities that experience energy deficiencies to make payments for state-operated emergency backup electricity resources.


[PDF] Public Interest Research Program Review, Letter to Senator Padilla

February 3, 2011 - This responds to Senator Padilla's request that we conduct an independent review of the Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program at the State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission (CEC). This program, which will automatically expire unless extended through legislative action, provides grants for research to develop energy technologies that benefit the environment, provide greater electricity system reliability, and lower system costs. We find that (1) the CEC has not demonstrated that there has been a substantial payoff to date from the state’s investment of more than $700 million in ratepayer funds, (2) there is a role for the state to continue to support public interest energy research, and (3) if the Legislature decides that there should be a continuing state role in this area of research, improvements could be made to the implementation of this role, including tightening funding eligibility parameters and changing the process by which research funding is allocated.


The 2018-19 Budget: California Alternative Energy and Advanced Transportation Financing Authority (CAEATFA)

February 15, 2018 - In this analysis, we recommend one modification to the Governor's proposed 2018-19 budget for the California Alternative Energy and Advanced Transportation Authority: modify the one-time $8.2 million appropriation in 2018-19 by instead providing specific reimbursement authority over a three-year period, plus budget bill language giving the Department of Finance authority to increase spending authority with 30-day notification to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee.


The 2014-15 Budget: Resources and Environmental Protection

February 21, 2014 - In this report, we analyze the Governor's 2014-15 budget for the state's resources and environmental protection programs. We review and make recommendations on a number of major policy proposals, including a review of the administration's recently released Water Action Plan as well as the proposal to reduce or eliminate several programs currently funded by the Beverage Container Recycling Fund (commonly referred to as the "bottle bill"). We find that these policy proposals are generally reasonable approaches, though we identify trade-offs in the proposals and offer recommendations for legislative consideration. The report also identifies several issues included in the Governor's budget that merit additional legislative oversight. This includes the proposal to provide the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection with a total of $43 million from the General Fund to address deferred maintenance backlogs. While we find that it makes fiscal sense to address deferred maintenance, there is uncertainty about what factors have contributed to the large backlogs, as well as how the state can best address maintenance needs on an ongoing basis.


[PDF] The 2010-11 Budget: Resources and Environmental Protection

March 8, 2010 - In reviewing the Governor's budget proposal, we uncovered current actions and proposals of the administration that either circumvent the Legislature's authority, make it difficult for the Legislature to oversee the administration's spending, or limit the Legislature's flexibility in making decisions. We found that the administration is: developing new renewable energy procurement requirements that circumvent legislative policy as reflected in current state law (known as the renewables portfolio standard); using an Emergency Fund--intended to pay for large-incident wildland firefighting costs--to cover some day-to-day departmental expenditures that are more appropriately made subject to legislative budget review; proposing a somewhat similar emergency fund for flood management that would be structured to allow the administration to augment it at its discretion without notifying the Legislature; and proposing again to fund recreation activities at State Water Project facilities in a way that escapes legislative budgetary review for all the spending. Finally, we recommend rejection of the Governor’s proposal to dedicate the ongoing Tranquillon Ridge oil lease revenues to support state parks, because it limits the Legislature's future decision making.


Energy Efficiency and Alternative Energy Programs

December 19, 2012 - California currently maintains over a dozen major programs that are intended to support the development of energy efficiency and alternative energy in the state. Over the past 10 to 15 years, the state has spent a combined total of roughly $15 billion on such efforts. In response to the Supplemental Report of the 2012-13 Budget Package, this report provides an overview of these different programs, as well as a preliminary assessment of them in terms of priority, overlap, and redundancy. We find that the state currently lacks a comprehensive framework that fully coordinates the state's energy incentive programs to help ensure that the state’s goals are being achieved in the most cost-effective manner. The absence of such a comprehensive framework (1) results in some level of program duplication, (2) results in some departments making policy choices that may not be aligned to legislative priorities, and (3) makes it difficult to compare effectiveness across programs. As a result, we recommend that the Legislature develop a comprehensive strategy for meeting the state’s energy efficiency and alternative energy objectives. In general, the comprehensive strategy should specify: (1) the state’s energy efficiency and alternative energy goals, (2) how programs should fit together to achieve the state’s goals, and (3) how program effectiveness will be measured.


[PDF] Analysis of the 2004-05 Budget Bill, Resources Chapter

February 18, 2004 - Analysis of the 2004-05 Budget Bill, Resources Chapter


Climate Change Impacts Across California - Housing

April 5, 2022 - This report focuses on how a changing climate is affecting the housing sector and key issues the Legislature faces in responding to those impacts. This is one of a series of reports summarizing how climate change will impact different sectors across California.


The 2021-22 Spending Plan: Natural Resources and Environmental Protection

October 18, 2021 - The 2021‑22 budget package provides a total of $21.7 billion from various fund sources—the General Fund, bond funds, and various special funds—for programs administered by the California Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Agencies. This is a net increase of $4.8 billion (22 percent) compared to 2020‑21 estimated expenditures.

Correction 10/22/21: Funding amount for CDFW has been corrected.