State Senate unanimously approves Senator Hawkins’ utility wildfire bill

OLYMPIA -- Legislation introduced by 12th District Sen. Brad Hawkins to implement recommendations by the Electric Utilities Wildland Fire Prevention Task Force on ways to prevent wildfires was approved today 46-0 by the Senate.
Senate Bill 5158 would direct state Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz to work with the Utility Wildland Fire Prevention Advisory Committee to implement recommendations recently offered in this report issued in December 2020. According to Hawkins’ proposal, this would be accomplished by Aug. 1 and the group’s work would be maintained and updated on the Department of Natural Resources’ website.
“I’m pleased the Senate has passed this important bill for my district and other wildfire-prone parts of our state,” said Hawkins. “Our state’s electric utilities have shown strong support for this bill, which is very helpful. If our utilities and DNR can keep working together to implement these key recommendations to avoid wildfires and utility liability, that would be a huge benefit for our state and its PUDs.
“These recommendations are very important to many of my utilities, especially considering the 12th District’s recent history of devastating wildfires,” added Hawkins. “It is important to keep the momentum going for this group, finalize its recommendations, and ensure ongoing communications with the Legislature.
“I’m very excited to be partnering with Chelan PUD and DNR on this bill. Commissioner Hilary Franz and her staff have been awesome to work with in past years and we accomplished some great things together in my first Senate term. I look forward to keeping that going this year as I begin my next term.”
During Senate Bill 5158’s public hearing in the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Feb. 8, Chelan County PUD General Manager Steve Wright provided key testimony and appreciates Hawkins’ sponsorship of the bill. Wright said, “Commendation to Senator Hawkins. This is an important step to address the collaboration necessary to address a pervasive risk like wildfire that could impact everyone in Chelan County.”
Franz previously spoke to the bill and her positive working relationship with Hawkins. Franz said, “A big ‘thank you’ to Senator Hawkins and his leadership on this bill and to all the stakeholders who took time to be part of the task force during a year of uncertainty. We had long-overdue and difficult conversations that brought us to consensus on many issues that will support all our wildfire prevention work as well as post-wildfire processes. The recommendations in this bill will solidify our work and ensure we keep the momentum of the task force going.”
Senate Bill 5158 now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

 

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