Governor Announces CA Wildfire Safety & Catastrophe Response Task Force

SACRAMENTO – Today, Governor Gavin Newsom announced the appointment of members of the California Wildfire Safety Advisory Board, as outlined in AB 1054, and the California Catastrophe Response Council, established by AB 111, both signed into law in July.

The legislation created the California Wildfire Safety Advisory Board, a board of independent expert advisors, to advise a new Wildfire Safety Division within the California Public Utilities Commission on wildfire safety measures, including plans written by utilities, so the CPUC can more effectively regulate the safety of investor-owned utilities.

AB 1054 also mandated that utilities tie executive compensation to safety performanceinvest $5 billion in safety improvements without profit, and go through a new yearly wildfire safety review and certification process. It also requires new inspections of utility electrical equipment. Under the law, utilities must create a wildfire safety committee in their corporate board, and provide direct board-level safety reporting to the CPUC.

The California Wildfire Safety Advisory Board will advise the Wildfire Safety Division within the California Public Utilities Commission on wildfire safety and mitigation performance, including plans written by utilities, so they can develop an appropriate scope and process for assessing the safety culture of an electric utility.

The Advisory Board will meet at least quarterly throughout the state. Biographies of the members are below.

California Wildfire Safety Advisory Board

Jessica Block, 41, of San Diego, has been appointed to the California Wildfire Safety Advisory Board. Block has been a senior research associate and associate director of the WIFIRE Lab at the University of California, San Diego since 2011. She was a wildfire research officer at the University of Melbourne in 2010, a research associate at the University of Ballarat, Australia from 2008 to 2009, a research associate at San Diego State University in 2008, and a senior research developer at Arizona State University from 2005 to 2008. Block earned a Master of Science degree in geological sciences with an emphasis in urban ecology from Arizona State University. This position does not require Senate confirmation and there is no compensation. Block is a Democrat.

Marcie Edwards, 62, of Castaic, has been appointed to the California Wildfire Safety Advisory Board. Edwards has been principal of MLE Consulting Inc. since 2017. She was general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power from 2014 to 2017, city manager of the City of Anaheim from 2013 to 2014, and general manager for Anaheim Public Utilities from 2001 to 2013. Edwards was interim chief executive officer for the California Independent System Operator in 2004. She held various positions at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power from 1976 to 2000, including assistant general manager for marketing and customer service business units, bulk power business unit director, energy control center manager and superintendent of load dispatching. Edwards earned a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of La Verne. This position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $400 per diem. Edwards is a Republican.

Diane Fellman, 69, of San Francisco, has been appointed to the California Wildfire Safety Advisory Board. Fellman was a public utility regulatory specialist at the California Public Utilities Commission from 2017 to 2018. She was vice president of regulatory and legislative affairs for the Western Region at NRG Energy Inc. from 2010 to 2017, director of regulatory and legislative affairs for NextEra Energy Resources Inc. from 2004 to 2010 and an attorney in private practice from 1986 to 2004. Fellman was legal counsel at the California Public Utilities Commission from 1983 to 1986 and a hearing officer and officer manager at the California Energy Commission from 1977 to 1983. Fellman earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Law. This position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $400 per diem. Fellman is a Democrat.

John Mader, 50, of Elk Grove, has been appointed to the California Wildfire Safety Advisory Board. Mader has been an electrical distribution engineer for the Pacific Gas and Electric Company since 1998. He is president of the Engineers and Scientists of California, Local 20, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE). This position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $400 per diem. Mader is a Democrat.

Alexandra Syphard, 49, of La Mesa, has been appointed to the California Wildfire Safety Advisory Board. Syphard has been chief scientist at Sage Insurance Holdings LLC since 2018 and adjunct professor in the Geography Department at San Diego State University since 2011. She was a senior research scientist at the Conservation Biology Institute from 2007 to 2019 and a postdoctoral research scientist for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, SILVIS Lab in the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology from 2005 to 2007, and a geographic information system (GIS) analyst and environmental planner at Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, from 1998 to 1999. Syphard earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in geography from San Diego State University and the University of California, Santa Barbara, a Master of Science degree in environmental studies from the Virginia Commonwealth University and a Master of Public Health degree from the Medical College of Virginia. This position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $400 per diem. Syphard is a Democrat.

Also, Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins today announced the Senate Rules Committee’s appointment of Ralph M. Armstrong Jr. to the California Wildfire Safety Advisory Board. Armstrong has held several positions with IBEW Local Union 1245 since 2007, including senior business representative and senior assistant business manager. Armstrong held several positions with Western Area Power Administration from 1995 to 2007, including occupational safety and health specialist and journeyman lineman. He was a journeyman lineman for the Florida Power and Light Company from 1989 to 1995 and held various positions for IBEW Local 349 from 1983 to 1989.

The Governor today also announced members of the California Catastrophe Response Council, which will oversee the operations and management of the Wildfire Fund created under AB 1054 to pay eligible claims resulting from a wildfire determined to be caused by an electric utility. The Council will direct the Wildfire Fund administrator to prepare and present its operation plans on an annual basis. Biographies of the members are below.

California Catastrophe Response Council

Catherine Bando, 64, of Los Angeles, has been appointed to the California Catastrophe Response Council. Bando has served as executive director at the California Statewide Communities Development Authority since 2014 and has been principal at Bando Public Finance since 2012. She was director at Citigroup Global Markets from 2010 to 2011, partner at Greencoast Capital Partners from 2009 to 2010, managing director at J.P. Morgan in 2008 and managing director at ABC Capital Markets from 1990 to 2008. She earned a Master of Business Administration degree from American University. This position does not require Senate confirmation and there is no compensation. Bando is a Democrat.

Paul Rosenstiel, 69, of San Francisco, has been appointed to the California Catastrophe Response Council. Rosenstiel has served as a special advisor to Governor Gavin Newsom since 2019. He was a member of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System Teachers’ Retirement Board from 2011 to 2019. Rosenstiel was special advisor at the Alameda County Treasurer’s Office from 2017 to 2019. He was managing director at Stifel from 2014 to 2015. Rosenstiel was managing director and manager at De La Rosa and Company from 2009 to 2014. He was deputy treasurer at the California State Treasurer’s Office from 2007 to 2009. Rosenstiel was policy director at Westly for Governor from 2005 to 2006. Rosenstiel was vice president of public finance at Dean Witter Reynolds from 1983 to 1986. He was an economist at Recht Hausrath and Associates from 1979 to 1981. Rosenstiel is chair of the California Budget and Policy Center. He is a board member of the Global Projects Center at Stanford University. He is a member of the Public Policy Institute of California, Planned Parenthood of Northern California, Financing the Future Working Group and the Chinese Community Health Care Association. Rosenstiel earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Stanford University. This position does not require Senate confirmation and there is no compensation. Rosenstiel is a Democrat.

Rhoda Rossman, 60, of Albany, has been appointed to the California Catastrophe Response Council. Rossman has been an independent trustee of the Matthews Asia Funds since 2006. She was a fixed income specialist at Cypress Wealth Advisors from 2017 to 2018 and held several positions at PMI Mortgage Insurance from 1997 to 2010, including corporate investment officer, treasurer and portfolio manager. Rossman was portfolio manager at Montgomery Asset Management from 1995 to 1996, vice president at the Wells Fargo Bank Investment Management Group from 1993 to 1995 and assistant portfolio manager at RCM Capital Management Group from 1993 to 1995. She was a credit analyst and portfolio manager at Benham Capital Management from 1985 to 1987 and assistant vice president and underwriter at AMBAC Municipal Bond Insurance from 1983 to 1985. Rossman earned a Master of Public Administration degree in public finance from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. This position does not require Senate confirmation and there is no compensation. Rossman is a Democrat.

Additionally, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon today announced his appointment of former Assemblymember Richard Gordon to the California Catastrophe Response Council. Gordon currently serves as president and CEO of the California Forestry Association. Gordon served three terms (2010-2016) in the California State Assembly, where he was Rules Committee Chair for two years. Before that, Gordon was a member of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and was president of CSAC in 2008. Gordon is a fourth-generation Californian born and raised in San Mateo County.

The Council is comprised of nine members: the Governor, or his designee; the Treasurer, or her designee; the Insurance Commissioner, or his designee; the Secretary of the Natural Resources Agency, or his designee; one member appointed by the Senate Committee on Rules; one member appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly; and three public members appointed by the Governor.

This action is the most recent that the Governor has taken to address the recent utility-directed Public Safety Power Shutoffs, which have left thousands of Californians without power or electricity.

The Governor has declared a statewide emergency due to the dangerous weather conditions. Governor Newsom announced the launch of a new state website, RESPONSE.CA.GOV this week, which serves as a one-stop portal for tools and resources available to Californians who have been impacted by wildfires and utility-directed power shutoffs, as well as community and business partnerships to support residents impacted by the wildfires and the shutoffs.

The Governor also announced that the state has secured Fire Management Assistance Grants to help ensure the availability of resources to fight the Getty Fire, as well as the Kincade and Tick fires – for which the Governor previously declared a state of emergency in Sonoma and Los Angeles counties.

This week and last week, the Governor met with emergency responders, volunteers, health officials, residents and state and local leaders in Los Angeles, Santa RosaPetalumaNapa and Geyserville, and held briefings regarding the ongoing fire threats and the need to hold utilities accountable for the consequences of their power shutoff decisions.

The Governor has called on the California Public Utilities Commission to reform power shutoff rules and regulations as part of its investigation into the utility-led shutoffs. He has also announced a $75 million program for state and local governments to mitigate the impacts of power shutoffs and unveiled a series of new partnerships and new tools to help secure medically vulnerable populations during these events.

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