The bill requires a cooperative electric association (association) to adopt a wildland fire protection plan. The plan must include information on:
- Areas where the association has powerline facilities that may have an increased risk of wildland fires;
- The procedures and standards that the association will use to inspect and operate its powerline facilities and perform vegetation management around those facilities;
- The modifications or upgrades that the association will implement to reduce risks of wildland fires;
- The procedures for de-energizing powerline facilities to mitigate potential wildland fires;
- Community outreach efforts during the wildland fire season; and
- The potential for coordination with other wildland fire protection plans.
An association must file its wildland fire protection plan with the public utilities commission every 3 years and must submit an annual report to the commission detailing its compliance with the plan.
The bill allows, but does not require, an association to remove or partially remove vegetation outside of a powerline facility easement as necessary following a major weather event or other emergency situation. In addition, an association may designate vegetation as "hazard vegetation" if the association finds that the vegetation is dead, likely to fail, or likely to fall, sway, or grow into a powerline facility and finds that the vegetation is likely to cause substantial damage, disrupt service, or come within a minimum clearance distance of the powerline facility. An association may, but is not required to, remove or partially remove hazard vegetation outside of an easement after providing notice to the landowner. The association is not required to provide notice if removal of the hazard vegetation is necessary to continue safe operation of its facilities or if the removal is done as part of trimming or removing vegetation after a storm or other emergency event.
If vegetation outside of a powerline facility easement dies as the result of being trimmed or partially removed by an association, the landowner may request that the association remove the vegetation at the association's expense. The association is required to remove the vegetation within ninety days; except that the association may offer and the landowner may accept payment for the reasonable cost of removal instead of the association removing the vegetation.
An association is not liable for personal injury, property damage, or fire suppression costs resulting from a wildland fire if any of the following apply:
- The association filed a wildland fire protection plan and completed the activities described in it;
- A landowner failed to control vegetation outside of a powerline facility easement on the landowner's land;
- The association requested and was denied access to perform vegetation management in a right-of-way on land owned by a local government, the state, a federal agency, or a tribal agency; or
- A landowner prevented the association from maintaining its powerline facility easement or from removing hazard vegetation outside the easement.
If none of those circumstances apply and an association is found liable for a wildland fire, the prevailing plaintiff is limited to actual damages and cannot recover noneconomic, punitive, or exemplary damages.
(Note: This summary applies to this bill as introduced.)