Will Regulators Break Up Scandal-Plagued PG&E?

VENTURA, CA - DECEMBER 5: A home is destroyed by brush fire as Santa Ana winds help propel the flames to move quickly through the landscape on December 5, 2017 in Ventura, California. (Photo by Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

A California Public Utilities Commission report that Pacific Gas & Electric failed to fulfill its responsibilities to properly maintain natural gas lines from 2012 to 2017 even after a natural gas explosion killed eight people in San Bruno in 2010 may be the last straw for state regulators.

On Dec. 21, the CPUC released a dramatic statement saying it would consider drastic steps to address the “serious safety problems” it says the utility has long condoned. The commission said a break-up of the agency into smaller regional utilities or a state takeover would be among the possible changes it examined.

“This process will be like repairing a jetliner while it’s in flight. Crashing a plane to make it safer isn’t good for the passengers,” said CPUC President Michael Picker. “This is not a punitive exercise. The keystone question is would, compared to PG&E and PG&E Corp. as presently constituted, any of the proposals provide Northern Californians with safer natural gas and electric service at just and reasonable rates.”

CPUC looking at seven possible major changes

The CPUC statement said seven possible changes would be considered.

– Having “some or all of PG&E be reconstituted as a publicly owned utility or utilities.”

– Replacing some members of PG&E’s Board of Directors with members “with a stronger background and focus on safety.”

– The replacement of existing corporate management.

– Adoption of a new corporate management structure with regional leaders overseeing regional subsidiaries.

– Linking PG&E’s “return on equity” – the profits it shares with its investor-owners – to its safety performance.

– Breaking the utility’s natural gas operations and its electric transmission operations into separate companies.

– Ending the arrangement in which PG&E is controlled by a holding company so it becomes “exclusively a regulated utility.”

Picker’s statement was a remarkable turnaround from his comments on Nov. 15, when his upbeat remarks about the ability of PG&E to survive its fourth consecutive year of devastating wildfires in Northern California led the utility’s stock price tospike.

It reflected the anger among CPUC officials over a staff report released Dec. 14 that found the utility had systematicallyneglected natural gas infrastructure despite being fined $1.6 billion and convicted of six felonies in federal court over the 2010 disaster in San Bruno, a suburb of San Francisco.

Utility facing 500 lawsuits relating to fires it may have caused

Even if PG&E survives in something like its present form after the CPUC’s review, its future is still very cloudy.

Because of claims that PG&E was responsible for the devastating Camp Fire that killed 85 people in Butte County in November, U.S. District Judge William Alsup announced he was reviewing whether PG&E had violated terms of its federal probation in the San Bruno case.

PG&E also disclosed to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it is facing roughly 500 lawsuits with more than 3,100 plaintiffs over claims the utility was responsible for many of the dozens of wildfires in Northern California since 2016.

It is also facing wildfire-related lawsuits from the state Office of Emergency Services, Cal Fire, Calaveras County and other government agencies.

But while the CPUC is apparently ready for major changes at the utility, it’s not clear yet how state lawmakers feel.

On Nov. 19 – even as criticism of PG&E swelled as confirmed deaths grew in the Camp Fire – Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, was reported to be considering introducing legislation to help the utility deal with wildfire costs.

Holden helped pass a law earlier this year that allowed PG&E to spread out the costs from the liabilities it faced from 17 wildfires in 2017.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Retiring State Fire Chief Warns Planners of Future Fire Risk

A home burns as the Camp fire tears through Paradise, California on November 8, 2018. - More than 18,000 acres have been scorched in a matter of hours burning with it a hospital, a gas station and dozens of homes. (Photo by Josh Edelson / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Director Ken Pimlott retired last week but only after giving interviews in which he called for sweeping changes in how state officials and the public think about wildfire risks. He also challenged conventional wisdom on the state’s attitude about forest thinning and on who was most responsible for starting most fires.

Pimlott told the Associated Press that local and state planners should only approve new housing projects in wilderness and canyon areas if far more efforts are made to guarantee there are easy evacuation routes and unless home fire defense measures are mandatory. He also called for much tougher building standards in so-called wilderness “interface” areas to make it more difficult for homes and commercial and government structures to burn.

“We’ve got to continue to raise the bar on what we’re doing, and local land-use planning decisions have to be part of that discussion,” Pimlott said.

His remarks were seen by some as a comment on Los Angeles County officials giving their final approval last week to a 19,000-home project at Newhall Ranch near Interstate 5, about 70 miles north of the city of Los Angeles. Project opponents said the county didn’t go nearly far enough in imposing conditions that would reduce fire risks.

Public urged to take ‘red flag’ warnings more seriously

Pimlott also said more civil defense-type programs and emergency alarm systems are needed in communities in wooded areas. And he said the public in areas at risk of wildfires needed to take “red flag” extreme danger warnings far more seriously – not as a vague and unlikely threat but as an imminent personal risk.

“The reality of it is, California has a fire-prone climate and it will continue to burn. Fire is a way of life in California and we have to learn how to live with it, we have to learn how to have more resilient communities,” he told AP.

At least if Pimlott’s warnings are taken seriously, the push for tougher building regulations in fire-prone areas will only make addressing California’s housing crisis more difficult. That’s because a mantra of housing reformers has been to reduce, not increase, state housing regulations to bring down costs. By some accounts, the Golden State has the nation’s costliest construction rules.

In an interview with the New York Times, the retiring fire official said that President Donald Trump’s assertion that poor forest management was behind the state’s awful run of monster wildfires since 2015 was misleading. He said state officials are hardly ignoring the problems caused by dead trees and thick undergrowth.

“Over the next five years, there’s over a billion dollars invested in both forest thinning and forest health projects,” Pimlott said.

Blame public, not stressed utilities, for ‘95%’ of fires

At a time when Pacific Gas & Electric and, to a lesser extent, Southern California Edison, have faced lawsuits seeking hundreds of millions in damages or more because of allegations that poorly maintained utility equipment triggered wildfires, Pimlott said there is an insufficient appreciation of how much bigger the fire threat is than just a decade ago.

“There has been negligence in some cases,” the 30-year firefighter told the Times. But he said that in most cases, “folks have complied with everything and you have winds that are blowing at 80 miles an hour, you have infrastructure that was never designed to function in these extreme conditions that we are now seeing.”

Who is most to blame for fires in the Golden State? Pimlott said the answer is the same that it’s always been.

“In reality, 95 percent of fires in California are caused by people – welding, grinding, pulling a car off the edge of the road, weeding at the wrong time of day,” he said.

Pimlott told the Times that he intends to spend much of his time in retirement on a 70-acre parcel in a heavily forested area in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. The parcel was badly scorched by a 2014 wildfire.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

California Burning – How the Greens Turned the Golden State Brown

Thomas FireIn October 2016, in a coordinated act of terrorism that received fleeting attention from the press, environmentalist activists broke into remote flow stations and turned off the valves on pipelines carrying crude oil from Canada into the United States. Working simultaneously in Washington, Montana, Minnesota and North Dakota, the eco-terrorists disrupted pipelines that together transport 2.8 million barrels of oil per day, approximately 15 percent of U.S. consumption. The pretext for this action was to protest the alleged “catastrophe” of global warming.

These are the foot soldiers of environmental extremism. These are the minions whose militancy receives nods and winks from opportunistic politicians and “green” investors who make climate alarmism the currency of their political and commercial success.

More recently, and far more tragic, are the latest round of California wildfires that have consumed nearly a quarter million acres, killed at least 87 people, and caused damages estimated in excess of $10 billion.

Opinions vary regarding how much of this disaster could have been avoided, but nobody disputes that more could have been done. Everyone agrees, for example, that overall, aggressive fire suppression has been a mistake. Most everyone agrees that good prevention measures include forest thinning (especially around power lines), selective logging, controlled burns, and power line upgrades. And everyone agrees that residents in fire prone areas need to create defensible space and fire-harden their homes.

Opinions also vary as to whether or not environmentalists stood in the way of these prevention measures. In a blistering critique published earlier this week on the California-focused Flash Report, investigative journalist Katy Grimes cataloged the negligence resulting from environmentalist overreach.

“For decades,” Grimes notes, “traditional forest management was scientific and successful — that is until ideological, preservationist zealots wormed their way into government and began the overhaul of sound federal forest management through abuse of the Endangered Species Act and the ‘re-wilding, no-use movement.’”

U.S. Representative Tom McClintock, whose Northern California district includes the Yosemite Valley and the Tahoe National Forest, told Grimes that the U.S. Forest Service 40 years ago departed from “well-established and time-tested forest management practices.”

“We replaced these sound management practices with what can only be described as a doctrine of benign neglect,” McClintock explained. “Ponderous, byzantine laws and regulations administered by a growing cadre of ideological zealots in our land management agencies promised to ‘save the environment.’ The advocates of this doctrine have dominated our law, our policies, our courts and our federal agencies ever since.”

Grimes goes on to outline the specific missteps at the federal level that led to America’s forests turning into tinderboxes, starting in the Clinton Administration and made worse, thanks to activist judges, by thwarting reforms attempted by the Bush Administration, and accelerating during the complicit Obama presidency.

All of this lends credence to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s fresh allegations of forest mismanagement. But what really matters is what happens next.

Institutionalized Environmental Extremism

California’s 2018 wildfires have been unusually severe, but they were not historic firsts. This year’s unprecedented level of destruction and deaths are the result of home building in fire prone areas, and not because of wildfires of unprecedented scope. And while the four-year drought that ended in 2016 left a legacy of dead trees and brush, it was forest mismanagement that left those forests overly vulnerable to droughts in the first place.

Based on these facts, smart policy responses would be first to reform forest management regulations to expedite public and privately funded projects to reduce the severity of future wildfires, and second, to streamline the permit process to allow the quick reconstruction of new, fire-hardened homes.

But neither outcome is likely, and the reason should come as no surprise — we are asked to believe that it’s not observable failures in policy and leadership that caused all this destruction and death, it’s “man-made climate change.”

Gov. Jerry Brown is a convenient boogeyman for climate realists, since his climate alarmism is as unrelenting as it is hyperbolic. But Brown is just one of the stars in an out-of-control environmental movement that is institutionalized in California’s legislature, courts, mass media, schools and corporations.

Fighting climate change is the imperative, beyond debate, that justified the Golden State passing laws and regulations such as California Environmental Quality Actthe Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008, and numerous others at the state and local level. They make it nearly impossible to build affordable homes, develop energy, or construct reservoirs, aqueducts, desalination plants, nuclear power plants, pipelines, freeways, or any other essential infrastructure that requires so much as a scratch in the ground.

Expect tepid progress on new preventive measures, in a state so mired in regulations and litigation that for every dollar spent paying heavy equipment operators and loggers to do real work, twice that much or more will go to pay consultants, attorneys, and public bureaucrats. Expect “climate change” to be used as a pretext for more “smart growth,” which translates into “stack and pack,” whereby people will be herded out of rural areas through punishing financial disincentives and forced into densely populated urban areas, where they can join the scores of thousands of refugees that California is welcoming from all over the world.

Ruling Class Hypocrisy

Never forget, according to the conventional wisdom as prescribed by California’s elites, if you don’t like it, you are a climate change “denier,” a “xenophobe,” and a “racist.”

California’s elites enjoy their gated communities, while the migrants who cut their grass and clean their floors go home to subsidized accessory dwelling units in the backyards of the so-called middle class whose taxes pay for it all. They are hypocrites.

But it is these elites who are the real deniers.

They pretend that natural disasters are “man-made,” so they can drive up the cost of living and reap the profits when the companies they invest in sell fewer products and services for more money in a rationed, anti-competitive environment.

They pretend this is sustainable; that wind farms and solar batteries can supply adequate power to teeming masses crammed into power-sipping, “smart growth” high rises. But they’re tragically wrong.

Here the militant environmentalists offer a reality check. Cutting through their predictable, authoritarian, psychotically intolerant rants that incorporate every leftist shibboleth imaginable, the “Deep Green Resistance” website offers a remarkably lucid and fact-based debunking of “green technology and renewable energy.” Their solution, is to “create a life-centered resistance movement that will dismantle industrial civilization by any means necessary.”

These deep green militants want to “destroy industrial civilization.” At their core, they are misanthropic nihilists—but at least they’re honest. By contrast, California’s stylish elites are driving humanity in slow motion towards this same dire future, cloaked in denial, veiled coercion, and utopian fantasies.

This is the issue that underlies the California wildfires, what causes them and what to do about them. What is a “sustainable” civilization? One that embraces human settlements, has faith in human ingenuity, and aspires to make all humans prosperous enough to care about the environment, everywhere? Or one that demands Draconian limits on human settlement, with no expectation that innovation can provide solutions we can’t currently imagine, and condemns humans to police-state rationing of everything we produce and consume?

That is the stark choice that underlies the current consensus of California’s elites, backed up by dangerous and growing cadres of fanatical militants.

This article originally appeared on the website American Greatness.

Even California Cannot Defy Nature Forever

A wildfire rages in Buck Meadows, in the Yosemite National ParkCalifornia has been clouded under a blanket of smoke for weeks. Stanford University, where I work, sent students and faculty home early for Thanksgiving. The campus is more than 200 miles southwest of the 150,000-acre Camp Fire that just incinerated the Sierra Nevada foothill town of Paradise, and yet the entire Bay Area has been buried under collateral haze for days. I am a fifth-generation native Californian and remember many horrific Sierra Nevada fires, but never anything remotely comparable to the blazes of 2018.

Here in Fresno County, in the San Joaquin Valley, positioned between the Coast Range and Sierra Nevada mountains, the stagnant air for weeks has remained as polluted as China’s. When the normal northerlies blew, we were smoked in from the Camp Fire, 250 miles to the north. When the rarer southerlies took over, some of the smoke from the 100,000-acre Woolsey fire in the canyons of Malibu arrived from 230 miles distant.

July and August were nearly as incendiary as November. The huge, 450,000-acre Mendocino County conflagrations, the horrific Shasta-area Carr fire (nearly a half-million acres), and the nearby Ferguson fire in the Madera foothills all combined to make the air nearly unbreathable for two months throughout the Central Valley. Yet Californians in the irrigated center of the state were the lucky ones, breathing smoke rather than seeing fires overwhelm their homes and communities.

What is going on in California? Governor Jerry Brown, most of the Democratic-majority state legislature, the academy, and the administrative state have rushed to blame man-made global warming for the undeniable dry spell from May to mid-November that turned mountain canyons into tinderboxes. Usually autumn rains keep hillsides wet enough to prevent sudden combustions when the late autumn winds kick up. Not this year. Yet, if California has been arid and rainless these past months, two years ago we experienced near-record snow and rain that started in early fall and continued into late spring. Last year, we saw near-normal levels of precipitation.

If our life-giving reservoirs of the state’s vast California Water Project and federal Central Valley Project are currently not full, it is mostly because millions of acre-feet of stored water were released to flow into the San Francisco Bay estuaries and the delta—contradicting most of the original mandates of the water projects of providing flood control, power generation, lake recreation, and irrigation for California residents. Our ancestors rightly had assumed that two-thirds of the state’s people would continue to live where one-third of the state’s precipitation fell, requiring vast water transfers aimed exclusively for municipal and irrigation needs, admittedly at the expense of nineteenth-century whitewater rivers, flood plains, and riparian landscapes. Protecting the delta smelt population in San Francisco Bay, or restoring ancient salmon runs in the San Joaquin River, were not the concerns of these farseeing water engineers, who never imagined that their envisioned third-generation water projects would either be cancelled outright or would fail to keep pace with California’s burgeoning growth.

Left unsaid is that more than 130 million trees died throughout the state’s foothills and mountain ranges during the drought of 2011–2016 and were not removed from the forest floor, providing an immensity of natural kindling for fires. To walk in a Sierra Nevada forest during summers requires navigating not just over fallen limbs and branches, but also rotting trees—all amid dead brush and dead but still-towering brown pines. Gone are the periodic meadows and open spaces of the 1960s and 1970s, when logging companies harvested trees, thinned out the forests, replanted what was cut, and cleaned up the forest floor. Yet given California’s stringent anti-logging regulations of the last 20 years, there is no real California timber industry left, at least as it once was. And scavenging even dead trees prompts a great debate, as environmentalists lecture on the advantages of letting the dead wood be. Or, as Sierra Club organizer Daniel Barad put it in a January 2018 Sacramento Bee op-ed: “Dead trees are vital components of the forest ecosystem and should be removed only when necessary.” He added of the state’s millions of dead conifers: “Most are in remote areas, and removing them would be extremely costly and ecologically devastating. The black-backed woodpecker, northern fisher and northern spotted owl are among the species that rely on dead tree habitat . . . Also, dead trees store carbon for decades. As they decompose, much of their carbon returns to the soil, where it is held for thousands of years. In a large-scale removal, all that carbon is disturbed.” Perhaps Sierra Club environmental sensitivity is well-meant, but such orthodoxy ensures that the summer and autumn air that 40 million residents breathe, along with the lives of thousands living in the mountains, become secondary concerns to beetles and woodpeckers.

Other force multipliers combined with the drought and poor forest management to ensure that California’s fires were especially destructive to human habitats. One, California is no longer a state where most live along a coastal strip or in the flat, irrigated Central Valley. For a variety of economic, political, and cultural reasons, millions have flocked to the Coast Range canyons near the ocean that offer cheaper home sites and less chilly morning and evening weather. Looking down from a plane at night over the California Sierra Nevada foothills no longer reveals a sea of darkness, but rather millions of lights sparkling from private homes. Again, for many such rural refugees, Sierra Nevada foothill living is cheaper and quieter than the sprawling, congested metropolises of Sacramento, Fresno, and Bakersfield. Fifty years ago, many of these fires would have taken out isolated cattle ranches, power stations, and a few homesteaders. Now they threaten entire communities.

Two, given its length and long parallel mountain ranges, California is a longitudinal state, with its rails and freeways mostly running north and south, such as the 101, I-5, and 99 corridors. It’s difficult to travel latitudinally across California. Environmentalists and no-growth activists cancelled many of the envisioned auxiliary trans-Sierra and trans-Coast Range routes long ago. Few good highways exist into and out of the coastal and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges that might allow quick and safe access for firefighting and evacuation teams.

Roads between mountain communities are windy, narrow, and often potholed and crumbling (California remains near last in state-by-state infrastructure ratings, though it will soon have the nation’s highest gas taxes). For many foothill residents, the ensuing lack of traffic and easy mountain access is seen as a sort of blessing, ensuring privacy and a lack of tourism. Unfortunately, the net result of both poor and too few roads was that when wind-swept fires leapt through canyons and up hillsides, it was almost impossible to escape rural communities and private residences with any rapidity. And so, homes burned down and people died.

In a larger sense, twenty-first-century California is starting to confront the real-life consequences of its own abstract ideologies—on several tragic fronts. The nearly five-year drought taught us that entire communities and vast irrigated acreages could disappear if we ignored our forefathers’ warnings to keep building reservoirs, aqueducts, and dams commensurately with population growth, and to abide by the original rationale of these multi-billion-dollar projects. Open borders and sanctuary cities appear humanitarian, but when the result was the arrival of millions of impoverished immigrants without legal status, English fluency, and high school diplomas, state resources once prioritized for roads, bridges, canals, reservoirs, and airports were directed to accommodate vast expansions of social-welfare programs. The idea of ending close state supervision of those suffering from psychological disorders and mental illnesses, when combined with strict zoning and environmental laws that stymied new low-cost housing construction, led to hundreds of thousands of homeless living on the sidewalks of the state’s temperate coastal cities, from San Diego to Berkley. Medieval plagues like typhus and infectious hepatitis are often the result.

These same paradoxes help explain the 2018 epidemic of destructive forest fires, a tragic consequence of ideology trumping reality and common sense. Once upon a time, the architects of state governance understood that living in paradise required constant investments and vigilance against the vagaries of both Mother Nature and human nature, whether that meant managed forestry, road construction, reasonable building codes, or water storage and transfers. In theory, at least, millions of dead trees may have been ecological assets for a near pristine, mid-twentieth-century California of 10 million people. But such natural kindling can pose an existential danger to a complex civilization of 40 million twentieth-first century state residents.

Californians are being tragically reminded that the abstract ideologies of a few impose life-and-death consequences on millions.

Camp Fire: Death toll of 42 expected to rise as fire grows to 125,000 acres

A home burns as the Camp fire tears through Paradise, California on November 8, 2018. - More than 18,000 acres have been scorched in a matter of hours burning with it a hospital, a gas station and dozens of homes. (Photo by Josh Edelson / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Ernie Foss had been bed bound for more than a decade. His family provided him care at his Paradise home, where he struggled with an unusual condition that caused swelling over his entire body.

So when the relentless Camp Fire tore through his neighborhood on Edgewood Lane on Thursday, he didn’t have a way out.

Still, Foss’ stepson and caregiver, Andrew Burt, made every effort to get Foss up and into a wheelchair as a fast-moving wall of fire wiped out the town.

They almost made it.

Investigators found Foss’ body outside his home and next to his stepson’s burned-out van, Foss’ daughter, Angela Loo said. Burt remains missing.

“This is happening for all these people — It’s just unimaginable,” Loo said in a telephone interview from Oregon. “For our whole family, it’s been devastating. We’re in shock.”

As the number of dead continues to climb in the days after the fearsome blaze, a tragic picture of those who perished has begun to emerge. Like Foss, who was 63, many of the victims and missing people are seniors. Some had fixed incomes and like Foss, lived with mobility challenges or more serious disabilities.

The death toll hit 42 on Monday, with more than 200 people still unaccounted for in the fire that struck Thursday morning. As of Tuesday morning, it had burned 7,746 structures and continued to threaten another 15,500 structures, on its way to chewing through 125,000 acres. The fire was 30 percent contained. …

Click here to read the full article from the San Francisco Chronicle

Death toll in California wildfires climbs to 25

FireThe remains of 14 more victims were found in the ashes of a massive Northern California wildfire, bringing the total number of deaths from blazes raging across the state to at least 25, officials said Saturday.

Butte County Sheriff Kory L. Honea said the 14 bodies were recovered in the Camp Fire, thought to be the most destructive wildfire in state history. Nine deaths had previously been reported in that fire.

Two bodies also were found in the burn zone of the Woolsey Fire in Southern California, officials said.

“I know that members of our community who are missing loved ones are anxious, and I know that the news of us recovering bodies has to be disconcerting,” Honea said. “I will tell you that we are doing everything that we possibly can to identify those remains and make contact with the next of kin.”

“My heart goes out to those people. I will tell you that this weighs heavy on all of us,” he said. …

Click here to read the full article from NBC News

California’s wildfire reality needs this new plan

A wildfire rages in Buck Meadows, in the Yosemite National ParkWildfires in California, which for the first time in living memory know no season — the state is dry at all times of the year — are vastly different from the old notion of “forest” fires in mostly unpopulated places.

That’s why a fresh initiative out of Sacramento in Gov. Jerry Brown’s May revision of his budget forecast is right to include $96 million in new annual spending, from various funding sources, to support up-to-date firefighting that acknowledges new climate and exurban-growth realities. That modest but important spending will come in addition to $160 million proposed in January to use money from the environmental cap-and-trade funds on timberland-management improvements and fire protection in state and national forests.

Forest fires of what can now be thought of as the old-fashioned, Smokey Bear variety, do indeed still occur, often in remote wilderness areas of California’s many mountain ranges, often sparked by old-fashioned causes such as lightning. And they still need to be fought, or at least monitored. In fact, because of increased dryness and ever-vaster fires throughout the nation’s West, almost the entire budget of the United States Forest Service in recent years has been devoted to fighting wildfires.

But think back to the most recent devastating fires of several months back in California — they were not exactly in the Sierra Nevada.

October’s wine country wildfires in the end became the most financially harmful in our state’s history, with insurance claims of almost $10 billion. The state Insurance Department says that means the several related fires centered in Sonoma and Napa counties went past those in the suburban Oakland Hills fire of 1991 to become the most expensive every in California. …

Click here to read the full editorial from the Orange County Register

Jerry Brown Blames Climate Change for California Fires

VENTURA, CA - DECEMBER 5: A home is destroyed by brush fire as Santa Ana winds help propel the flames to move quickly through the landscape on December 5, 2017 in Ventura, California. (Photo by Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

California Governor Jerry Brown blamed climate change for the California fires that have devastated the state this fall during a visit to assess the damage in Ventura County on Saturday.

“This is the new normal,” he said, as quoted by the Orange County Register. “We’re facing a new reality where fires threaten peoples’ lives, their properties, their neighborhoods and cost billions and billions of dollars. We have to have the resources to combat the fires, and also have to invest in managing our vegetation and forests and all the ways we dwell in this very wonderful place — but a place that’s getting hotter.”

However, climate scientists are more skeptical, noting that climate change could be one of a variety of factors.

A comprehensive look at the question by Southern California Public Radio — hardly a conservative outlet — found that there was considerable debate about the factors that made this year’s fires particularly bad.

One factor was high winds, whose connection to climate change is “still up for debate.” Another factor was the state’s recent drought, which persisted in the part of Southern California where the Thomas fire — now in excess of 150,000 acres, with only 15% containment — struck. (Ironically, last winter’s heavy rains caused brush to grow rapidly, giving fires plenty of fuel to burn.)

An important factor in the fires of the past week was that people are building homes in areas that are naturally prone to wildfires, or where naturally dry conditions mean that the kinds of building materials and vegetation that people prefer to use in cities and suburbs are a fire hazard.

Brown has frequently cited climate change as the cause for natural disasters before, only to be corrected by scientists, who suggested he was guilty of “noble-cause corruption” — i.e. distorting science in service of a cause that many scientists support.

Last year, both Brown and then-President Barack Obama falsely linked wildfires across the western United States to climate change. And last month, Brown told a conference at the Vatican that the world needed “brain washing” on climate change.

Aside from the Thomas fire, firefighters have made significant progress in their struggle against some of the other fires burning across the region. The Skirball fire near the 405 Freeway, which brought traffic to a standstill in Los Angeles on Thursday, was at 75 percent containment as of Saturday afternoon, according to Southern California Public Radio. The Lilac fire, which killed several dozen horses on Thursday, was fully contained by Saturday evening, according to the Register.

“The Creek Fire was now 80% contained, and the Rye Fire was 65% contained” as of Saturday, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Officials say there have been no deaths associated with the Southern California fires.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Southern California braces for severe wildfire season

As reported by the Desert Sun:

The thousands of acres burning across Southern California this week foreshadow what’s expected to be a severe wildfire season, the head of the U.S. Forest Service said.

Chief Thomas L. Tidwell predicts certain parts of the country — including Southern California and Arizona, where four large, uncontained fires are burning this week  — will have active fire seasons, like Washington and California did last year.

Last year was one of the worst wildfire years since at least 1960, according to records kept by the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. More than 10.1 million acres were charred in 68,151 incidents. That compares to 3.5 million acres in 2014 and 4.3 million in 2013.

Two wildfires scorched thousands of acres and forced the evacuations of more than 850 homes in the San Gabriel Mountains about 95 miles northwest of the Coachella Valley this week. Several hundred residents were …

Click here to read the full article