Sep 11, 2020
Gov. Gavin Newsom Surveys Wildfire Damage, Talks Climate Change: Transcript
California Governor Gavin Newsom held a press conference while touring the damage from the North Complex Fire on September 11. He said the role of climate change in the west coast wildfires is undeniable, saying “this is a climate damn emergency.” Read the transcript here.
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Governor Gavin Newsom: (00:00)
Once again being ravaged by wildfires, but by incident after incident that have required emergency efforts, heroic efforts to evacuate individuals and to address the acuity of a climate crisis that we’re experiencing. Not only here in the state of California, but in many parts of the world.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (00:23)
If you do not believe in science, I hope you believe in observed evidence. You walk around this community. You walk around this park around Lake Oroville. You see the reality, a reality that is set in in this state and very indelible ways. That is, we’re in the midst of a climate emergency. We’re in the midst of a climate crisis. We are experiencing weather conditions the likes of which we’ve never experienced in our lifetime. We’re experiencing what so many people predicted decades and decades ago. All of that now is reality. It’s observed. It is part of a consciousness.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (01:06)
It’s part of the experience, not just the expression that is the state of California. 3.154 million acres burned as of this morning. Close to 3.2 million acres burned in the last number of months here in the state of California. Over 7,700 wildfires.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (01:27)
This contrast to last year where we had 4,900 wildfires and 118,000 acres burned. 26 times more acreage burned this year in the state of California than in 2019. Tens of thousands of people being evacuated. The science is absolute. The data is self-evident. The experience that we have in the state of California just underscoring the reality of the ravages of climate change.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (02:03)
When I talk about the challenges here in Butte County, it’s not lost on anyone who lives up here. The 200,000 people that were evacuated a few years ago in 2017 related to the spillway here on the Lake Oroville Dam, where we had to evacuate because of the massive amount of water and the runoff into the lake where the Lake was overflowing because again of the acuity of extremes because of the climate.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (02:32)
We say this often, and I’ll say it again. The hots are getting a lot hotter. Dries are getting a lot dryer. The wets are getting a lot wetter. That’s climate change. That’s what the scientists predicted. That’s the reality that we’re experiencing here in the state of California.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (02:47)
We have to own that reality and we have to own a response to that reality. One thing that’s crystal clear to me. Good enough never is, in the state of California while it’s led, as it relates to climate change. We’ve got to step up our game. While we have audacious goals. While we’re leading the nation in low carbon green growth, as we’ve led the nation and our efforts to decarbonize our economy. We’re going to have to do more and we’re going to have to fast track our efforts. While it’s nice to have goals to get to a hundred percent clean energy by 2045, that’s inadequate to meet the challenges this state and I argue this nation faces.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (03:22)
We’re going to have to fast track our efforts. We’re going to have to be more aggressive in terms of meeting our goals much sooner. I have tasked now our administration, led by two members to my right, Jared Blumenfeld, who runs the EPA in the state of California and Wade Crowfoot runs our resource agency, to go down in every prescriptive goal that the state has. To go down that list and to dust off our current processes, our current strategies and accelerate all of them across the board. In terms of the work we’re doing to not just broadly decarbonize our economy, but to specifically adapt strategies. To get more electric vehicles out on the street, to electrify our transportation, to focus on our land use efforts in this state in a much more dynamic and deliberative manner. To look at our soils policies in the state of California, our industrial and agricultural policies in the state of California across the entire spectrum.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (04:31)
Our goals are inadequate to the reality we’re experiencing. Mother nature is three things. It’s been said by many people. Mother nature is physics, biology, and chemistry. She bats last and she bats a thousand. That’s the reality we’re facing, the smash mouth reality. This perfect storm.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (04:50)
The debate is over around climate change. Just come to the state of California. Observe it with your own eyes. It’s not an intellectual debate. It’s not even debatable any longer. What we are experiencing, the extreme droughts, the extreme atmospheric rivers, the extreme heat.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (05:13)
Just think, in the last few weeks alone, we’ve experienced the hottest August in California history. We had 14,000 dry lightning strikes over a three-day period. We’re experiencing temperatures, world record breaking temperatures, in the state of California, 130 degrees. Arguably the hottest recorded temperature in the history of mankind in the state of California just a few weeks ago. We had 121 degree temperatures in LA County, Burbank Airport, 114 degrees. It was 103 degrees in one part of the state of California at three in the morning.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (05:49)
You’ve seen the images now strewn across the rest of the globe. These orange glows, the quarter-inch thick snow that is these ashes that are falling hundreds of miles away from these fires. Fires that we’re experiencing. North California, 800 miles down to southern part. Near the border of Mexico, 28 active large-scale fires that the state of California is currently battling.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (06:21)
14,600 firefighters currently battling those wildfires. Mutual aid coming from every local municipality and mutual aid coming from around the world. We had firefighters come in from Israel. I was talking to prime minister Justin Trudeau, sending firefighters from Canada, reaching out to partners. I was talking to Governor Murphy yesterday from New Jersey. New Jersey is sending engines out here on the west coast of the United States to the state of California.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (06:51)
We have Utah and Texas, Montana, has helped out. Obviously Oregon and Washington, not only are we receiving mutual aid from Oregon and Washington, we’re going to need to reciprocate and provide mutual aid in Oregon and Washington. They’re also dealing with record breaking fires and loss of property.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (07:10)
Economic impacts. If you say, all right, well, this is a health issue perhaps, with the air we breathe and the air quality. Perhaps this obviously has an impact in terms of the quality of life. How about the economic consequences? Just ask the folks here in Butte County. $2.2 billion just to clean up the debris related. Just to clean up the debris related to the campfire. $2 billion, just to clean up the debris. I don’t know I need to emphasize it a fourth time.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (07:41)
The economic consequences of our neglect. You want to know the cheapest way to deal with this is to invest in the future. To invest in a low carbon green growth future. To decarbonize our economy, to change the way we produce and consume energy. It is the cheapest way to go. The biggest cost is in our neglect. The biggest cost is not accelerating and fast tracking our low carbon strategies.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (08:06)
By the way, California is doing that five to one. We have more green jobs than we do fossil fuel jobs. Five to one. Not two to one, five to one. We’re proving this paradigm. You could grow your economy 3.8% average GDP growth in the last five years in the state of California, as we moved to accelerate the decarbonization of our economy.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (08:26)
Again, it’s not enough and it’s not enough to do it alone. The state of California doesn’t live in an island. While it’s the largest state in our union, it’s not even large enough to have the consequences in terms of marking a greater impact of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. That’s why we need to get other states on board.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (08:46)
I couldn’t be more pleased in particular with our Pacific coast collaborative we have with Oregon and Washington and the leadership of Governor Brown. Not just the current Governor Brown in Oregon, the previous Governor Brown in the state of California and Governor Inslee up in Washington State. We’ve led a partnership, not just in the Pacific coast, but we also led a partnership in a US Alliance. 24 States plus California. 25 States that have come together, basically doubling down on the Paris Protocol.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (09:15)
As the rest of the nation moves in one direction, we are moving in a more enlightened direction. I say we. That’s 24 states plus the state of California. That’s impactful. Just think about California alone. This state, its population’s larger than the 163 nations that signed up on the Paris Protocols. There are 196 nations. California’s population alone is larger than 163 nations.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (09:42)
We want to punch above our weight. We want to continue to punch above our weight, but we’re going to need more people coming on board. We’re involved in dozens and dozens of lawsuits against an administration that doesn’t see eye-to-eye with us on this. Rather than lamenting about it, we’ll continue to fight.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (09:56)
The courts will continue to win as we are overwhelmingly against the rollbacks of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act and continue to make a case. Not even make a case, just prove what we’ve been asserting. That these efforts will save taxpayers money. That will lower the cost of consuming energy. That will inure to building more resiliency in our environment and allow us to leave something a little bit better than this to our kids and grandkids.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (10:28)
People that want to roll back vehicle emission standards so you could spend more money at the pump and produce more greenhouse gas emissions to create more of what you see around me. That’s beyond the pale of comprehension. We’re fighting against that and we’ll prevail as long as more people come to this cause.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (10:49)
I guess, forgive me, I’m being a little bit long-winded, but I’m a little bit exhausted that we have to continue to bait this issue. This is a climate damn emergency. This is real and it’s happening. This is the perfect storm. It is happening unprecedented ways year in, year out. You can exhaust yourself with your ideological BS by saying, well, a hundred years ago, we should have done this or that. All of that may be true. I’m not going to suggest for a second that the forest management practices in the state of California over a century plus have been ideal. That’s one point, but it’s not the point.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (11:32)
The reality here is the mega fires that we’re experiencing come from these mega droughts that we’ve experienced. 150 dead trees, million dead trees in our forest in Southern Sierras. Beetle-infested forest, those mega droughts impacting the mega fires.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (11:55)
There’s something else going on, not just bad past practices over a century related to forestry. That said, we do recognize we have to do more in terms of prescribed burns. We do have to do more on vegetation management. We do have to do more on our forest management efforts. By the way, the state of California is doing more than it’s ever done in that space. 35 high profile projects we got done would have taken it 10 years based upon previous past practices. We were able to get those things done in 15 months. These fuel breaks that you’re seeing, these high profile fuel breaks, including, by the way, just a stone’s throw from here. Efforts five years in a row to create fuel breaks.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (12:40)
It actually saved a lot of property, potentially lives, just in this area. We recognize our responsibility to do more in that space as well. We’re doubling down on that still from what we did last year with a partnership with the federal government, the US Forest Service, where we did a memorandum of understanding. We commit to the next few decades to do more in partnership, to double the amount of acreage that we’re covering through our forage management efforts.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (13:06)
We do recognize that, but that’s not just the issue here in California, Washington, Oregon, and other Western States. When you have a heat dome over the entire west coast of the United States. When you have temperatures, record-breaking temperatures, record droughts, then you’ve got something else at play. That’s exactly what the scientists have been predicting for a half a century.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (13:28)
It is here now. California, folks, is America fast forward. What we’re experiencing right here is coming to a community all across the United States of America unless we get our act together on climate change. Unless we disabuse ourselves of all the BS that’s being spewed by a very small group of people that have an ideological reason to advance the cause of a 19th century sprain work and solution. We’re not going back to the 19th century. We’re not apologist to that status quo. We believe in the fresh air of progress.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (14:03)
… to that status quo. We believe in the fresh air of progress versus the stale air, emphasis stale air, of normalcy. And so, that’s California. We’re going to [inaudible 00:14:11] in the future. We’re going to accelerate our low carbon green growth strategies. We’re going to create more economic opportunity in this space, more resiliency, a sustainable mindset. And we’re going to advance this cause in partnership with hundreds and hundreds of subnational and national leaders around the rest of the world.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (14:28)
One of the great inheritance I received as the 40th governor of California is the work is a 39th, in establishing an MOU under two protocol with 200 plus nations and governments, subnational governments, around the world. That’s leadership. We want to build on that work. The US Climate Alliance, we want to build on that. The Pacific Coast Collab, we want to build on that, and we want to build on the framework of our Cap-and-Trade Program, build on the framework of all of these audacious goals on electric vehicles, all of our audacious goals on waste and diversion, and all our audacious goals as it relates to getting to 100% clean energy. But we’ve got to fast-track all of that if we’re going to, I think, be judged well in the future. Because right now, everything we’ve done has been adequate. Continue to do what you’ve done, you’ll get what you got.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (15:24)
And so, that’s why I’m here, a little more animated, explaining this to my four kids, my little four-year-old who’s moved from talking about a novel coronavirus, actual language a four-year-old uses, to now talking to me about what is going on outside and why he can’t play around with a soccer ball outside. That’s not the world I want to leave to my kids. It’s not the world you want to leave to your kids. This is not a world that anyone should be experiencing, and we don’t have to. Our decisions, not conditions that will determine our fate and future.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (15:58)
And so, I’m very, very proud of California’s leadership in the absence of national leadership, and I recognize our responsibility again, to accelerate those efforts. So with that, I just want to ask Wade and Jared, perhaps, to either one of you, come up, both of you, and maybe amplify some of what I may have said and maybe talk a little bit more about what we’ve been talking about the last few weeks as we’re experiencing this historic fire season.
Wade Crowfoot: (16:26)
Jared Blumenfeld: (16:26)
[inaudible 00:02:28]. Hi, Jared Blumenfeld, Secretary of Cal EPA. Just want to start by really saying, the governor framed it as a leadership issue. Just the profile in leadership that is the governor, I’ve had the privilege of working with the governor for a long time when they’re difficult issues. If you just imagine the beginning of this administration. I remember the last governor hadn’t even left office, and we had the first fires come in. Day, upon day, upon day, upon day, the state has been buffeted by emergencies. And when it comes to making tough decisions, the governor has made them, and they’re not always popular decisions. And climate is one of those issues that we all know as Californians is here. I think the scientists told us in reports after reports, that it would be coming 20 years from now. 20 years from now, we’d be facing what we’re facing right here today in Oroville.
Jared Blumenfeld: (17:28)
And I just wanted to start by saying, be safe, first of all. We have these masks. They’ve become like the Swiss Army knife. They’re the good for COVID, but they’re really good for the crappy air as well, and make sure we’re using them. The N95 is really helpful.
Jared Blumenfeld: (17:47)
On your phone, you can get an app that shows you the air quality. Right here, right now, the air quality index is 508. It’s healthy below 50. So really, right now, is the time to take care of your lungs. Especially if you’ve got kids, folks in your family with asthma, the elderly, this is a time to really make sure that you’re not going outside. This is not a time if the air quality is dangerous, and you can get lots of different apps that tell you the air quality from the Air Resources Board and others. Please, please, please. We don’t have to be breathing this air, and also make sure the air quality in your home, if you have the opportunity to get an air filter, really, I’d advise one.
Jared Blumenfeld: (18:33)
Next thing, the governor … like he phoned late at night, both Wade and I, and we work as a big climate team within government, and said, “We need to do more, and we need to do it faster.” And he reiterated like, “Wade, Jared, this really is a climate emergency. We really need to tackle this as if our lives depended on it, because they do.”
Jared Blumenfeld: (18:53)
And so, that sense of urgency that you hear from the governor, he’s pushing on us to make sure we look at every single aspect. And he’s right, California is leading the nation when it comes to renewable energy. It is leading the nation when it comes to electric vehicles. It is leading the nation when it comes to building efficiencies, and I actually want to thank everyone for doing their part.
Jared Blumenfeld: (19:19)
The governor called on us two weeks ago, to prevent blackouts. People around the state, big businesses, small businesses contributed. And even things like using less water and helping for drought, actually help save energy as well, because a lot of our energy in the state is moving water around. So literally, everything that you’ve all been doing, appreciate it. We want to make it easier. We want to make it so that it’s second nature so that you’re not even thinking about replacing that light bulb, because you replaced it with an LED 15 years ago. So we want to save you money. And that, I think, really is the governor’s point.
Jared Blumenfeld: (19:58)
Many of the policies that contribute to climate change are actually hard on your pocket book, and we’re trying to create an economic recovery that’s based on innovation. And I don’t really know anyone in my life that’s more of an innovator than the governor. How we use innovation to springboard our economy future into the future is really by green jobs, a green economy. So main thing today, I’d want to say is be safe. If those numbers are above 50, which most of the state is, please don’t go outside. Get one of these N95 masks if you do have to go outside, and monitor it. And then we’ll be coming.
Jared Blumenfeld: (20:39)
The governor’s asked us month after month, to give him proposals that show what we’re doing, to activate what we’re doing. And Wade and I had the chance of going to a climate conference. Everyone around the world is looking to see what California is doing. And I’m just incredibly grateful that we have a leader like governor Newsom, who’s not only leading California, but leading the world when it comes to climate. Wade?
Wade Crowfoot: (21:06)
Thanks governor. And thanks, Jared. I’d start by locating us and sharing a little bit about where we are right now. We are in the Loafer Creek portion of the Oroville State Recreation area, and that is a beloved recreational asset in this part of the state, one of 280 state parks in our state. The Oroville State Recreation Area, the undeveloped portion around the lake, burned over about 70% in the last number of days.
Wade Crowfoot: (21:37)
More broadly, across our state park system, 10 of our 21 park units have been impacted by these recent fires, including of course, Big Basin State Park, that the governor toured last week. State parks are a point of pride for Californians and really one of the crown jewels of an amazing natural ecosystem we have in California. And I think as we talk about the human cost of these impacts, we have to also elevate the natural resource impacts of these fires.
Wade Crowfoot: (22:10)
Fact is, California has world-renowned nature and world renowned biodiversity of plants and animals. And when you talk about almost three and a half million acres of California land, that’s over three and a half percent of the state burning, major impact to our environment and certainly our watersheds. We stand in a very important watershed for the state and the state water project. And the fact is, these fires damage our watersheds. They also, of course, damage our infrastructure.
Wade Crowfoot: (22:41)
We know from the energy challenges of last couple of weeks, where fires knocked out transmission lines, that climate-driven, catastrophic fires threaten the infrastructure that brings us our daily standard of living on the energy side, but also the water side. We’re not far from the Hyatt power plant at the Oroville reservoir, that actually had to relocate operations downstream because of fire threats. So these challenges are real to people and communities, to nature, to our infrastructure. And I think what both governor and Jared said is absolutely true.
Wade Crowfoot: (23:16)
We’re seeing impacts today that we thought would materialize by mid-century, and that’s a really important point. Because we used to talk about climate adaptation or climate resiliency as sort of a future planning exercise, a little bit of a kind of wonky forecasting effort. The fact is, climate resilience is about protecting our people and our nature now. So under the governor’s direction, we’re increasingly focused on, with Jared’s leadership, how do we drive down carbon pollution?
Wade Crowfoot: (23:48)
We need to obviously transform our transportation, our building, our energy system, but then what steps can we take to actually reduce pollution and protect people and nature from the climate impacts that are already here?
Wade Crowfoot: (24:02)
So I’m really excited to be helping to lead on this effort, really focused on climate resilience and where can we find ways to continue to lead the world, reducing carbon pollution, but in ways that recognize the reality, which is as we do that, we need to do more to protect our communities, and our natural places. So I’m really excited about the work that Cal Fire has continued to do on the proactive front, of really reducing wildfire risk to communities, even while they do heroic work, responding to these wildfires. And as the governor said, while we can be proud of what’s happened in California, we have to do so much more. And that’s what we’re looking forward to doing in the coming months and years.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (24:52)
Let me just thanks Jared and Wade. And both of them have a long history of being environmental champions, and Jared left the Obama administration representing the EPA on the West coast of the United States, and Wade was in the Brown administration. Both have a little history with me when San Francisco was leading this state and in many respects, cities across the country, in terms of some of our efforts to establish new expectations in terms of our low carbon efforts. And so, we’re bringing a world-class team back, and we’ve got a lot of work to do. Look, let’s talk just briefly and I’ll open up the questions in a moment.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (25:27)
We now currently have five active fires that are five of the most destructive fires in the history of the state, five of the 20 most destructive that are currently being suppressed, which is just remarkable when you consider that we just came out August the hottest in recorded history. 19 people have lost their lives in these fires. We anticipate that number may potentially go up as we get back into areas that have been ravaged by flame and obviously smoke begins to clear. 3,900 plus structures have been destroyed. Many more structures, we anticipate we will learn about over the course of the next days and weeks.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (26:14)
Here’s the good news. The weather is beginning to cooperate. The good news is the winds have settled down. The good news is there’s weather starting to appear offshore that will create an environment where we may get a little bit of precipitation, a modest amount of precipitation. In a perverse reality, with all this smoke, it cools the temperatures down. The smoke blanketing down the state of California, it actually advantages some of our efforts in terms of mitigating the spread. The only downside by definition is the air quality and then the inability for some of our air resources to get in. But nonetheless, the spread is mitigated as a consequence.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (26:58)
We’ve made great progress on the LNU Complex and the SU Complex, the CZU Complex. We are making progress on this complex of fires. 23% contained in this northern complex, otherwise referred to in the past as the Bear Fire. 253,000 acres roughly, are in this current complex.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (27:22)
The August fire in this state is the largest in California history. It currently is at 24% containment. That August complex is 747,000 acres. Just that one complex of fires, 747,000 acres alone. Again, something we’ve never seen in our lifetime.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (27:45)
And so, want to just, again, express deep respect, admiration for all of our frontline folks out there, doing the hand crew work, doing the work on making sure that we’re dozing, creating these breaks. Not just the suppression efforts of Cal Fire and all the mutual aid, also local law …
Governor Gavin Newsom: (28:03)
…the suppression efforts of Cal Fire and all of mutual aid. Also, local law enforcement, our sheriff, California highway patrol, police, that have really come to the aid of so many on the evacuations, our health and human service teams working at COVID protocol environment to help people safely navigate our congregate shelters, and provide opportunity to isolate and quarantine into hotel rooms in a way that we haven’t done in the past. I’d be remiss not referencing all of that and acknowledging their extraordinary work. And we couldn’t, again, be more pleased or proud of that.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (28:35)
With that I also today have a piece of legislation that I’ll be signing that is relevant and impactful. We noted a few months ago in anticipation this wildfire season, we had a series of public events in anticipation of this wildfire season. We had updated folks on the work we were doing on our vegetation and forest management, and the historic amount of resources that we were putting into preparing for this year’s wildfire season. But we also marked because of COVID and because of other circumstances related to a reduction in availability of incarcerated personnel that could help provide some supplemental support for Cal Fire in terms of providing suppression and hand crew help through CDCR, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, that we supplemented our seasonal workforce by 858 people. I announced last week we had hired 830. Today I can state that all 858 firefighters have been hired pursuant to that emergency supplemental that we had appropriated a few months back.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (29:47)
But one of the things that we have been working towards for a number of years, going back to the Brown Administration, where there were efforts last year, where we made progress but this year where we actually got this done, Eloise Reyes, thank you for your incredible leadership stewarding a bill that will help give people opportunity and hope. And those are those prisoners that are out there, thousands of prisoners that are on the front lines that are near the end of their time in prison that are getting credits, and want the opportunity because of the training they’re receiving, once they’re out of the system, to be able to potentially join a workforce of which they’ve been trained and have actively participated in heroic ways of advancing, meaning their suppression efforts are demonstrable when you see them.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (30:40)
This bill that I’m about to sign will give those prisoners hope of actually getting a job in the profession that they’ve been trained. And I just want to thank everybody in the legislature, the legislative leaders, and others that supported this bill, small number of people didn’t feel it was appropriate to give these folks a second chance, and that was unfortunate. But the good news, what’s fortunate, enough did, and I am looking forward to signing this piece of legislation here in a moment. And I just want to thank Scott Budnick, there’s so many people I could thank for their advocacy in this space. I want to thank Brian Rice in California, a lot of the leaders within our California unions that recognize this moment and the opportunity to do this in a thoughtful and judicious way.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (31:27)
So I’m belaboring this except to say I brought this piece of legislation appropriately I thought here today that will give these future firefighters and emergency personnel a chance by getting them the opportunity to expunge their records, giving them a chance to get a certificate, giving them a chance to potentially get a career ladder coming out of prison. So let me sign that before I answer any questions.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (31:56)
And this is a AB2147 for the record. So this official. And very grateful again to Eloise Reyes for her outstanding work. So that’s it in a nutshell. I can do a COVID update if you wish. 3,200 plus new positive cases, down to 3.7% positivity over this seven day period. We are making progress in that space. We’ll update you more over the weekend and in our Monday presser. Happy to take questions.
Dale Kasler: (32:31)
Hi, it’s Dale Kasler from the Sacramento Bee. When you talk about accelerating the climate change efforts, first off, was it a mistake for the State Water Board recently to postpone the planned shutdowns of those power plants in Southern California in the name of grid reliability? I mean, that takes us a step back, doesn’t it?
Governor Gavin Newsom: (32:55)
It was absolutely not a mistake. It was the right thing to do. Three plants will be extended for three additional years. One, the Redondo plant for one year, it was necessary in order to create and provide for reliability. We’re simply coming to close in terms of megawatt peak usage and load, and we need to address reliability, particularly moving into the new year 2021, 2022. So absolutely it was the right decision to do. And while you have a small step back, we’re going to make giant leaps forward to make that negligible in the context of our total overall strategies.
Dale Kasler: (33:33)
So when you talked about getting to 100% green energy, green grid by 2045, are you talking about a new piece of legislation? What specifically are you going to do to attack some of these issues?
Governor Gavin Newsom: (33:47)
Well I think 2045 is too late. So absolutely we’re looking to fast track all of these efforts across the spectrum, across the board. We’ve already reached our RPS portfolio goal in 2018 of 34% ahead. It was a 33% goal ahead of the 2020 deadline, proving California can move into the future and grow its economy. We accordingly are generating over 50% of all our electricity from non-fossil fuel sources, that includes hydroelectricity and the nuclear that we are generating. That’s not part of the RPS, but nonetheless gives you a sense of the totality of California’s efforts moving in this space.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (34:28)
So we think we’re not only up to the challenge, we’re more than capable of achieving more audacious goals. And so we are currently in the process of putting together new ideas and new strategies to accelerate our efforts, accelerate the application implementation of commitments we previously made, and to look at these stretch goals of 2045, and see if we can pull them closer into the future.
Dale Kasler: (34:52)
Okay, I’ll ask some questions from the pool now. This first one is from Keeley Webster of the Bond Buyer. “Do you know how much grant money you’re expecting from FEMA for each of the counties that you’ve sought assistance for? Is there any concern about the availability of FEMA money now that President Trump has suggested he might take money from FEMA for the CARES too?”
Governor Gavin Newsom: (35:18)
Well, we’re the beneficiary state of California of over four billion dollars that has been redirected from FEMA into our unemployment and PUA system. We are getting those checks out and we’re doing so as quickly as possible. And we’re hoping that very shortly Congress, Senate in particular, can get their act together and allow for more certainty moving forward and a new source of funds, and not redirecting from existing FEMA reserves.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (35:48)
That said specific to the question Pete Gaynor, a head a FEMA, was out here in the States, spent two days with us touring the wildfire damage throughout the state of California. We have extraordinary partnership with FEMA, not only with Pete, but the regional director, Bob, and others. And so we have all the confidence in the world that we’ll continue in the spirit of partnership and collaboration to see the kind of support into the future that we’ve received in the past. And I also have confidence based upon the totality of these climate induced emergencies that are not just wildfire related, but also hurricanes in other parts of the country that Congress will see to it and the President will see to it that appropriate resources are made available to support those in needs. And so, no, I’m not concerned about those dollars running out.
Dale Kasler: (36:42)
Okay, thank you. This is from a Carla Marinucci from Politico. “President Trump has been silent on California and Western wildfire as well. He has tweeted on numerous issues and races. He has golfed and attended campaign rallies. His last lament on California’s current situation was three weeks ago. What’s your reaction to his failure to publicly address this latest devastation?”
Governor Gavin Newsom: (37:05)
Well, I can only speak to the conversations I’ve had with the President. I spent close to 30 minutes on the phone with the President yesterday specific to the wildfires here in California. We walked through the current status report on the active fires, the larger complexes. We actually specifically talked about the County and some of the recovery efforts from the campfire and he reinforced his commitment to our effort. And we were grateful yesterday to announce two new, we refer to as FMAGs that were approved by FEMA and the administration, the major disaster declaration that was approved a number of weeks ago that has helped advance our efforts to provide assistance, not just business assistance, and county support, but also the prospect now shortly of individual assistance to individuals that have been impacted, and evacuated from these fires.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (37:58)
So he has been proactive in that sense, and to the extent that he hasn’t made public comments, I imagine there’ll be more public comments forthcoming based upon the conversation I had with him yesterday.
Dale Kasler: (38:10)
Okay. Thank you. This is from Cheri Mossburg at CNN, and you alluded to the MOU from last month. “In the name of safety, what is the state doing to better manage and restore the forest and mitigate wildfire threat? And how does the new memo of understanding with the federal government play into that?”
Governor Gavin Newsom: (38:29)
It plays directly into that. California last year moved forward to no longer twiddle our thumbs and talk about, or lament about the good old days when we were more active in vegetation, and forest management. We decided to do something about it. In fact, one of the first actions I took as governor of the state of California, I went up to Placer County on a ridge and talked about the imperative of doing some forest management, some thinning, and some prescribed burns to address population vulnerability so we didn’t experience another camp fire.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (39:02)
We were able to commit to 35 high profile projects impacting and advancing our efforts to protect some 200 vulnerable communities in the state of California. A few months back, we announced the completion of all 35 of those high profile projects. We stated a few months ago that there were a number of those projects that were not due to be completed for over a decade. We were able to get them done a little over one year. We are committed to doubling down on those efforts, and that is exactly the spirit of the partnership that we advance this memorandum of understanding with the US Forest Service to basically double the commitment in terms of annual number of acres that are managed more efficiently and effectively in partnership with the state of California.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (39:48)
The goal is to get to a million acres a year. We recognize that’s not a stretch goal. That is the first goal of what we hope our subsequent announcements to go even farther and to do even more because we recognize we’re going to have to do more, but it was a significant milestone, a significant step forward because the US Forest Service in the state of California had not entered into any similarly placed commitments in the past.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (40:16)
And so it’s a positive development. It’s a good sign. It comes with real resources from the federal government, and it forces us to step up our efforts as the federal government does the same. And so it’s again, one of we hope many announcements that we’ll be making over the course of the next number of months, and we certainly hope over the next few years.
Dale Kasler: (40:37)
Is there money committed in that MOU? Or is it just sort of a pledge? “This is what we want to do.”
Governor Gavin Newsom: (40:41)
No, there’s resources committed by the federal government that come from a recent bill the President of the United States signed going back what, a couple of weeks ago? What the name of the-
Speaker 1: (40:53)
Great Outdoors Act.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (40:54)
Yeah, the Great Outdoors Act. So substant it goes from the provisions of the Great Outdoors Act, this memorandum I’m understanding will allow us actual resources. So it’s more than just a piece of paper. It’s not just symbolic, it’s substantive. And it’s also substantive in a different way that it allows us to really prioritize together the most impactful projects where we’re not just doing things in parallel track, we’re now doing things with real partnership and greater sense of urgency and intentionality.
Dale Kasler: (41:21)
Okay. Thank you. I’ll throw in a Corona virus question. This is from Mackenzie Mays at Politico. “It looks like the Sacramento area school where your children attend has received a waiver from the state to open. Do you plan to send your children back to the campus when they reopen, or are they going to continue with distance learning?”
Governor Gavin Newsom: (41:42)
Well, I’ll let you know after I process that with my wife. I know better to answer that question without caucusing with the leadership in the house.
Dale Kasler: (41:56)
Okay. Fair enough. Sorry. Bear with me a second here as we… This is from Kurtis Ming at CBS…
Dale Kasler: (42:03)
Give me a second here as we… This is from Kurtis Ming at CBS13 in Sacramento. When the power was cut so was the normal lines of communication. People in a fire’s path may not have access to phones, TV, or internet. Those who do have cell service may only have a signal until the cell’s backup generator runs out of fuel. As these fires become more common, what are you doing to make sure those in remote communities have access to critical communication when they need it most?
Governor Gavin Newsom: (42:31)
I’d refer the questioner to the work that the California Public Utilities Commission did last year. The work that we did collectively, the state legislature, myself, to work with all three of the largest investor-owned utilities in the state of California, not least of which PG&E, with new processes, new protocols, new expectations. To make sure that we are being much more responsive to the needs of vulnerable communities, particularly rural and remote parts of this state as it relates to any de-energization, what is referred to as PSPS. Those protocols have been changed and they have been advanced. They’re more targeted, they’re more limited. They come with resources that not only the IOUs are responsible for, but the resources we put up in the state of California to create new resource centers, cooling centers, to provide for backup generation, to provide for support for vulnerable communities, to provide for resources to address precisely the concerns that were raised in that question.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (43:34)
Also would note, we continue to work with the largest telecommunication firms in this state to require new backup generation, as it relates to their [inaudible 00:43:46] to their SMS systems, to their telecommunication network. We’ll continue to do more in that space. We’ve made a little progress, we have more work to do in that space. I want to just compliment the extent it’s important, Senator McGuire and others, Jim wood, that have been very active in this space, supporting Northern communities here in the state of California, and really trying to hold everybody private, public sector accountable for delivering on all of the above.
Dale Kasler: (44:17)
Were you satisfied with how PG&E handled the PSPS from the other night?
Governor Gavin Newsom: (44:22)
I’m getting an after action report, so I’ll be able to more substantively answer that question with more nuance and specific information. Broad strokes the impacts of the PSPS were more modest in terms of length and more modest in terms of scope, than likely they would have been a year ago pursuant to the new rules and regulations, the 72 hour notification, etcetera, that was put into place based upon the new rules that we established legislatively, executively and through the California Public Utilities Commission. At first look I was more satisfied, but I cannot claim to be firmly satisfied until I get the details which are forthcoming and will be provided to me very shortly.
Dale Kasler: (45:10)
Another question from me. In regard to all that you’ve done in the last two years, I believe the legislature has appropriated something like a half billion dollars for more equipment, more personnel for Cal Fire. Yet the theme of the last few weeks we keep hearing is, we’re stretched too thin. We don’t have enough. We hope they send the cavalry from Montana or whatever. Has the state just simply not done enough?
Governor Gavin Newsom: (45:38)
No, look, you have 14,000 lightning strikes between August 15th and August 18th, dry lightning strikes. You have a heat dome over the entire West Coast of the United States that precipitates at world record breaking temperatures in your state. Those are conditions that even the most abundant and well-resourced into the extreme agencies still would be overwhelmed by. That’s the challenge. Look, we provided substantially more money and ongoing support to Cal Fire this year, baseline money. I did a supplemental of over $72 million for those seasonal firefighters. That couldn’t have happened at a better time, and I just noted 858 were hired. We have more suppression technology than we’ve ever had in the past, and what I mean by that is LiDAR technology, access to Pentagon, information from satellites, the ability to access now technology that is part of our new well procurement of helicopters, these new Black Hawk helicopters that are finally starting to roll in.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (46:45)
Access to other tools or technologies as it relates to drones and wildfire and infrared cameras that we did not have in our possession, that were distributed as broadly as they have been this year. All of that’s happened in the last year and a half. We’ll continue to do more. We’ll continue to provide more resources, more personnel, more predictive technology. We have an incredible partnership on wildfire monitoring and wildfire prediction technology based upon weather, that allows us to prevent the spread of fires based upon the pre-distribution and pre-deployment of personnel. It’s technology that we didn’t have a year ago that we have today that also will help with our firefighter suppression. A lot of progress just simply not enough, and that’s why we’re here talking in the terms we should around a climate emergency, a climate crisis that needs to enliven all of us in this nation, where this nation has a responsibility to lead the world and to address.
Dale Kasler: (47:53)
I’m told this is the last question, it’s from Lorraine Dechter I hope I’m pronouncing that correctly, from Action News Now in Chico Redding. What other plans do you have in Butte County today? Any other meetings or actions taking place?
Governor Gavin Newsom: (48:10)
Yeah, we’ll be touring around. I hope I’ve been a familiar face up here in Butte County, certainly from the ravages, the wildfires that were experienced here after the campfire, and some of the subsequent removal of debris and rebuilding efforts. We’ve tried to be here for the community to the extent possible, in terms of our support of property tax, property tax support, school system support supplementing some of the economic losses in this area. I just want to express if I could, and thank you for this question, the opportunity to express what I should have from the onset of this conference, and that is my deep respect and empathy for the human element and the impact that the last three years that impact of all of these emergencies have had cumulatively on this community.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (48:59)
From the campfire alone to the spillway issues, to hear once again the PTSD that people are struggling with and suffering with the emotional impact. I won’t ever forget going to the first day of school up here in Paradise, the community surrounding Paradise. Where the teacher told me on that first day of school, that the kids had seen some fog outside their windows, and literally a number of the kids broke down emotional because they thought the fog represented the smoke related to the aftermath of the Paradise fire. That PTSD is real, an impact on children in particular is overwhelming. My respect, my empathy for everybody’s suffering in this community in particular. That’s one of the reasons specifically I wanted to come back up here today to lay claim to A an appreciation, but also a responsibility to be supportive, not throughout this current crisis, but to be here as I said two years ago, a year ago, and I’ll say it again for the long haul.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (50:06)
To make sure we’re here as part of the recovery, and making sure we’re here part of building a more resilient community, and doing more to prevent these fires in the future. With that, let me just again express my gratitude to all of those leaders, not only here in Butte community, but the surrounding communities throughout the state of California addressing these historic wildfires. I expect real progress in the next number of days. Weather conditions are more favorable. Some of these larger complexes we are making tremendous progress. I expect as well some of the air quality to begin to improve in the next number of days, measurably improve in the next number of days. You should expect in return the efforts in the state to be doubling down in terms of prevention, suppression strategies, and long-term solutions that are foundational and fundamental for our fate and future.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (50:59)
Not only as it relates to wildfire resiliency, but the fate and future of our health and our economy, and that’s addressing the issue head on of climate change and addressing climate denialism, which just also needs to be addressed head-on. I’ll close with one final statement. I heard from Jared Bloomfield he said something about changing light bulbs. The only thing that came into my mind is we can’t just change light bulbs, we also need to change leadership. I don’t mean that just as a knock, don’t just assume I’m just taking a cheap shot from a top-down federal prism, I mean that across the spectrum.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (51:36)
If people are still in denial and they’re leading the charge of keeping you protected and keep you healthy and safe, and they’re in denial about climate change, they’re not truly, I think, positioned to be the kind of leaders that we need for your community, for the state and our nation into the future. This is that serious, and it requires a seriousness of purpose, a seriousness of understanding, a seriousness of consciousness around science and Mother Nature and the realities of the world that we’re living in. I just want to conclude with that, and again thank everybody for being here, and thank you all those of you that may still be tuned in for the privilege of your time, take care everybody.
Dale Kasler: (52:25)
Thank you. Are you specifically going to go to Berry Creek?
Governor Gavin Newsom: (52:28)
We’re figuring out exactly where, but yeah. I’m trying to get there, and Mark really wants me to get there. My tour guide.