Legislature(2021 - 2022)GRUENBERG 120

04/09/2021 01:00 PM House JUDICIARY

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Audio Topic
01:05:01 PM Start
01:05:11 PM Commission on Judical Conduct
01:14:23 PM HB29
02:12:08 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Consideration of Governor's Appointees: TELECONFERENCED
- Commission on Judicial Conduct: Aldean
Kilbourn & Jane Mores
-- Public Testimony --
+= HB 29 ELECTRIC UTILITY LIABILITY TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
               HOUSE JUDICIARY STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                             
                         April 9, 2021                                                                                          
                           1:05 p.m.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
                             DRAFT                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Representative Matt Claman, Chair                                                                                               
Representative Liz Snyder, Vice Chair                                                                                           
Representative Harriet Drummond                                                                                                 
Representative David Eastman                                                                                                    
Representative Christopher Kurka                                                                                                
Representative Sarah Vance                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CONFIRMATION HEARING(S)                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
     Aldean Kilbourn - Fairbanks                                                                                                
     Jane Mores - Juneau                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     - CONFIRMATION(S) ADVANCED                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
HOUSE BILL NO. 29                                                                                                               
"An Act relating to liability of an electric utility for contact                                                                
between vegetation and the utility's facilities; and relating to                                                                
vegetation management plans."                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
     - HEARD & HELD                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
BILL: HB  29                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: ELECTRIC UTILITY LIABILITY                                                                                         
SPONSOR(s): REPRESENTATIVE(s) RAUSCHER                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
02/18/21       (H)       PREFILE RELEASED 1/8/21                                                                                
02/18/21       (H)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
02/18/21       (H)       JUD, L&C                                                                                               
03/19/21       (H)       JUD AT 1:30 PM GRUENBERG 120                                                                           
03/19/21       (H)       <Bill Hearing Canceled>                                                                                
03/22/21       (H)       JUD AT 1:30 PM GRUENBERG 120                                                                           
03/22/21       (H)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
03/22/21       (H)       MINUTE(JUD)                                                                                            
03/29/21       (H)       JUD AT 1:00 PM GRUENBERG 120                                                                           
03/29/21       (H)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
03/29/21       (H)       MINUTE(JUD)                                                                                            
04/09/21       (H)       JUD AT 1:00 PM GRUENBERG 120                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
ALDEAN KILBOURN, Appointee                                                                                                      
Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct                                                                                           
Fairbanks, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified as appointee to the Alaska                                                                     
Commission on Judicial Conduct.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
JANE MORES, Appointee                                                                                                           
Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct                                                                                           
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified as appointee to the Alaska                                                                     
Commission on Judicial Conduct.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
LYN ELLIOTT, Assistant Vice President                                                                                           
State Government Relations                                                                                                      
American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA)                                                                        
POSITION STATEMENT:  Answered questions during the hearing on HB
29.                                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
KAREN COLLINS, Assistant Vice President of Personal Lines                                                                       
American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA)                                                                        
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified during the hearing on HB 29.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
ANDY LEMAN, General Counsel                                                                                                     
Alaska Power Association                                                                                                        
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Answered questions during the hearing on HB
29.                                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
NORM MCDONALD, Fire Program Manager                                                                                             
Division of Forestry                                                                                                            
Department of Natural Resources                                                                                                 
Palmer, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Answered questions during the hearing on HB
29.                                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
[Due to technical difficulties, the  call to order and attendance                                                               
was reconstructed from the committee secretary's log notes.]                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
1:05:01 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR MATT  CLAMAN called the House  Judiciary Standing Committee                                                             
meeting to order  at 1:05 p.m.   Representatives Snyder (online),                                                               
Drummond,  Kurka, Vance,  and Chair  Claman were  present at  the                                                               
call to  order.   Representative Eastman  arrived as  the meeting                                                               
was in progress.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
^CONFIRMATION HEARING(S):                                                                                                       
                    CONFIRMATION HEARING(S):                                                                                
^Commission on Judical Conduct                                                                                                  
                 Commission on Judicial Conduct                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
1:05:11 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN announced that the  first order of business would be                                                               
confirmation  hearings  for  the  governor's  appointees  to  the                                                               
Alaska Commission on  Judicial Conduct.  He noted  that the first                                                               
appointee  for consideration  would  be Aldean  Kilbourn who  was                                                               
appointed to  her first term March  1, 2021, and that  term would                                                               
expire March 1, 2025.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
1:05:32 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
ALDEAN  KILBOURN,   Appointee,  Alaska  Commission   on  Judicial                                                               
Conduct,  testified  as appointee  to  the  Alaska Commission  on                                                               
Judicial  Conduct  and   provided  some  biographical  background                                                               
including her education  and career, and told  the committee that                                                               
she had  been a resident  of Fairbanks,  Alaska since 1972.   Her                                                               
education included a  degree in political science and  a minor in                                                               
French,  and she  had also  earned her  teaching certificate  and                                                               
taught in  Fairbanks North Star  Borough secondary schools.   She                                                               
earned her  master's degree in  library and  information science.                                                               
She  explained  that part  of  her  teaching experience  included                                                               
encouraging her  students to learn  and engage with  the judicial                                                               
system.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
1:07:44 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  DRUMMOND  referred   to  the  document  entitled,                                                               
"Commission  on Judicial  Conduct Appointment  - Aldean  Kilbourn                                                               
Application 4.9.2021.pdf" [included in  the committee packet] and                                                               
asked Ms. Kilbourne to explain more  about the detail in her work                                                               
history "Project CRISS trainer."                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MS.  KILBOURN   explained  that  Creating   Independence  through                                                               
Student's  own  Strategies  (Project  CRISS)  had  originated  in                                                               
Kalispell, Montana  among teachers  who identified  that students                                                               
were not  achieving test results  which she learned,  taught, and                                                               
used as a student herself during earning her master's degree.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
1:09:20 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN  stated that the second  appointee for consideration                                                               
would be Jane Mores who was  appointed to her first term April 2,                                                               
2019, and  had expired on  March 1, 2020,  at which time  she was                                                               
reappointed, and that term would expire March 1, 2024.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
1:09:55 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
JANE  MORES, Appointee,  Alaska Commission  on Judicial  Conduct,                                                               
testified  as  appointee to  the  Alaska  Commission on  Judicial                                                               
Conduct.   She  stated that  she was  reappointed as  an attorney                                                               
member of the commission.  She  stated that she resides in Juneau                                                               
and  had been  practicing law  for nearly  30 years  in different                                                               
locations  in Alaska.    She  stated that  ethical  conduct as  a                                                               
personal  guiding  beacon  to  her career,  her  service  on  the                                                               
commission  had been  meaningful  to her.    She emphasized  that                                                               
oversight of  judicial conduct was  important to public  trust in                                                               
the judiciary.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
1:12:33 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR   CLAMAN  opened   public  testimony   on  the   governor's                                                               
appointees  to the  Alaska Commission  on  Judicial conduct  and,                                                               
after  ascertaining that  no  one wished  to  testify, he  closed                                                               
public testimony.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
1:13:45 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SNYDER  stated that  the House  Judiciary Standing                                                               
Committee  has  reviewed  the qualifications  of  the  governor's                                                               
appointees and  recommends that the following  names be forwarded                                                               
to a joint session for  consideration:  Aldean Kilbourne and Jane                                                               
Mores to  the Alaska  Commission on Judicial  Conduct.   She said                                                               
that  signing the  report regarding  appointments  to boards  and                                                               
commissions in  no way reflects  an individual  member's approval                                                               
or disapproval  of the  appointee, and  the nomination  is merely                                                               
forwarded to the full legislature for confirmation or rejection.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
                HB 29-ELECTRIC UTILITY LIABILITY                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
1:14:23 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN announced that the  final order of business would be                                                               
HOUSE BILL NO.  29, "An Act relating to liability  of an electric                                                               
utility  for   contact  between  vegetation  and   the  utility's                                                               
facilities; and relating to vegetation management plans."                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
1:16:15 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
LYN   ELLIOTT,  Assistant   Vice   President,  State   Government                                                               
Relations, referred to a joint  letter from the American Property                                                               
Casualty   Insurance  Association   (APCIA)   and  the   National                                                               
Association of Mutual Insurance  Companies (NAMIC) entitled, " HB
29 Additional  Document -  APCIA and NAMIC  Joint Letter  to HJUD                                                               
4.9.2021.pdf," [included  in the  committee packet].   She stated                                                               
that the  letter addressed tow  concerns with HB 29,  as drafted.                                                               
She stated  that the  first concern  was that  HB 29  would grant                                                               
broad  immunity of  liability to  utilities [companies],  and the                                                               
second  concern was  the vegetation  management plan  requirement                                                               
that lacks  specificity and oversight  authority.   She suggested                                                               
that  a  proper  balance  considering  the  needs  of  utilities,                                                               
property owners, and the insurers should be sought.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MS. ELLIOTT  referred to a  document entitled, "HB  29 Additional                                                               
Document - APCIA and NAMIC  Draft Amendment to HB 29 (Distributed                                                               
by the HJUD Committee) 4.9.2021.pdf,"  [included in the committee                                                               
packet]  which  contains  suggested  language  to  include  in  a                                                               
potential future proposed amendment.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
1:19:38 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KURKA  referred to the joint  letter entitled, "HB
29 Additional  Document -  APCIA and NAMIC  Joint Letter  to HJUD                                                               
4.9.2021.pdf," [included  in the committee packet],  in paragraph                                                               
3, which read as follows [original punctuation provided]:                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     "If a utility company's negligence causes a wildfire,                                                                      
       the company would have the argument that they are                                                                        
     statutorily immune from civil liability,"                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KURKA asked whether,  should HB 29 pass, utilities                                                               
would  be immune  from any  liability whether  the [precipitating                                                               
event to  cause a wildfire]  was within the utility's  control or                                                               
not.                                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MS. ELLIOTT answered  that, should a utility  act negligently, it                                                               
would  not have  immunity from  liability  should HB  29 pass  as                                                               
drafted.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
1:22:22 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
KAREN  COLLINS,  Assistant  Vice  President  of  Personal  Lines,                                                               
American   Property  Casualty   Insurance  Association   (APCIA),                                                               
offered  additional information  in  reference to  Representative                                                               
Kurka's question.   She stated that among  the concerns expressed                                                               
by insurers with HB 29, one  was that although the easements upon                                                               
which utility  equipment is situated,  vegetation control  is not                                                               
an issue,  but an  issue may  arise in the  case where  a private                                                               
property   owner's  vegetation   [encroaches   on  an   easement,                                                               
contributing  to  a  wildfire,]  and that  the  current  proposed                                                               
language  in  HB  29  does  not  clearly  address  the  issue  of                                                               
liability.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
1:25:27 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  VANCE referred  to  a document  entitled, "HB  29                                                               
Additional Document  - APCIA and  NAMIC Draft Amendment to  HB 29                                                               
(Distributed by  the HJUD Committee) 4.9.2021.pdf,"  [included in                                                               
the committee  packet, and drew  attention to page 1,  item 1(b),                                                               
which read as follows [original punctuation provided]:                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
     (b) If an electric  utility identifies vegetation along                                                                    
     but  outside  of  its  real  property,  lease,  permit,                                                                    
     easement,  or  right-of-way  that  poses  a  particular                                                                    
     hazard as  defined in the electric  utility's filed and                                                                    
     approved wildland  protection plan,  it may  enter onto                                                                    
     the   property   and  perform   vegetation   management                                                                    
     pursuant to the wildland  protection plan. The electric                                                                    
     utility may not be held  liable for trespass as long as                                                                    
     its actions are limited to those necessary to                                                                              
     comply with the wildland protection plan.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  VANCE  asked what  the  intent  had been  of  the                                                               
drafter  of  the  proposed amendment  language  and  stated  that                                                               
property  owners  may  take issue  with  trespassing  allowed  on                                                               
his/her property.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN offered that the  proposed language had been modeled                                                               
after a law  that had been passed  in the State of  Utah in 2020.                                                               
He stated  that, should an amendment  be adopted and HB  29 pass,                                                               
the  Regulatory Commission  of Alaska  would  be responsible  for                                                               
reviewing and approving vegetation  management plans put forth by                                                               
utility companies.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MS.  COLLINS  answered that  the  intent  of the  language  would                                                               
address right  of way access.   She stated that many  states have                                                               
laws regarding right of way  and [the complexities that may exist                                                               
among]  multiple property  owners but  there exists  a threat  to                                                               
public   safety  because   of  wildfires   caused  by   hazardous                                                               
vegetation.   She gave an example  in which branches from  a tree                                                               
or  a  fallen  tree  from  an adjacent  property  could  cause  a                                                               
wildfire.  She stated that [a  utility company,] as a part of its                                                               
vegetation management  plan, would request that  a property owner                                                               
remove the hazardous vegetation and  should the owner not address                                                               
it,  the proposed  language would  allow the  utility company  to                                                               
remove the hazardous vegetation.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  VANCE expressed  her  concern that  communication                                                               
with  property owners  take place  prior  to any  trespass.   She                                                               
explained  that   the  City  of   Homer  had   removed  hazardous                                                               
vegetation  in  rights of  way,  and  it  had caused  concern  to                                                               
property  owners who  may have  wished to  remove the  vegetation                                                               
themselves.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
1:30:20 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KURKA  cited Article  1, Section  7 of  the Alaska                                                               
State  Constitution  and  commented that  the  proposed  language                                                               
would permit utilities property rights.   He stated his agreement                                                               
that additional language should be  included to address issues of                                                               
liability.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
1:31:31 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE VANCE  referred to  the document entitled,  "HB 29                                                               
Additional Document  - APCIA and  NAMIC Draft Amendment to  HB 29                                                               
(Distributed by  the HJUD Committee) 4.9.2021.pdf,"  [included in                                                               
the committee packet,]  and drew attention to page  2, which read                                                               
in  part [original  punctuation provided]:   "The  proposed civil                                                               
liability immunity  provision in the bill  could adversely impact                                                               
affordability of  homeowners' insurance for consumers"  and asked                                                               
whether  a property  owner  would be  subject  to insurance  rate                                                               
increases.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MS. COLLINS answered that the  losses resulting from catastrophic                                                               
wildfires  have   resulted  in  higher  insurance   premiums  for                                                               
property  owners.   She  stated  that in  the  case when  utility                                                               
companies  or  any  party  responsible  for  the  ignition  of  a                                                               
wildfire on  insured property occurs, the  insurance company will                                                               
pay  to  restore the  property  but  that  it would  pursue  cost                                                               
recovery, known as subrogation, to  offset the costs.  She stated                                                               
that, if  an insurance company  would lose its ability  to pursue                                                               
cost  recovery  from  an  at-fault party,  the  costs  to  policy                                                               
holders would increase.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE VANCE asked whether  Ms. Collins had observed rate                                                               
increases  to   policy  holders   in  states  that   have  passed                                                               
legislation similar to HB 29.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MS. COLLINS  answered that recently  passed legislation  in other                                                               
states  has been  in response  to wildfires  and stated  that the                                                               
right to subrogation  would provide a balance to  keep rates from                                                               
increasing.  She  recalled that wildfires in  California in 2017,                                                               
2018, and 2020  had prompted the passing of  legislation and that                                                               
other  states had  been affected.   She  noted that  the risk  of                                                               
wildfires was compounded by climate  change and drought over time                                                               
are expected to become more problematic and costly.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
1:35:47 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE VANCE  asked the number of  Alaskan policy holders                                                               
represented by the APCIA.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN stated  that the APCIA represented  insurers and not                                                               
policy holders directly.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MS. ELLIOTT  stated that there  exist 520 companies  that provide                                                               
property  casualty insurance,  of  which, five  are domiciled  in                                                               
Alaska and three are headquartered in Alaska.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
1:36:48 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  EASTMAN  asked,  in  states  that  allow  utility                                                               
companies  to conduct  vegetation  control  on private  property,                                                               
whether  there  exists  any  "hold  harmless"  language  for  the                                                               
property owner.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MS. ELLIOTT answered  that the bill that had passed  in the State                                                               
of Utah had only very recently  passed, and that data was not yet                                                               
available  on approved  vegetation mitigation  plans.   She added                                                               
that the  insurance industry and utility  companies had consulted                                                               
on the language that had been included in the passage that bill.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  CLAMAN asked  Ms. Elliott  to  confirm that  this type  of                                                               
legislation had not  been passed in very many  states, other than                                                               
the State of Utah and the State of California.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MS. ELLIOTT confirmed this as correct.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MS.  COLLINS stated  her  understanding that  the  laws had  been                                                               
passed in the  State of Utah and the State  of California in each                                                               
of  their most  recent legislative  sessions as  a result  of the                                                               
2020 wildfire season in western states.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
1:40:00 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  CLAMAN   asked  whether  increased  liability   in  states                                                               
affected by wildfire had resulted  in insurers reluctant to issue                                                               
insurance policies.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MS. COLLINS answered that there  existed an "availability crisis"                                                               
in the  State of California due  to wildfires in the  state.  She                                                               
cited factors  such as climate change,  drought, accumulated fuel                                                               
wells, and  the increasing  number of  properties being  built in                                                               
wildland/urban  interface all  had  accelerated  issues over  the                                                               
last  5 to  10  years.   She  stated  catastrophic wildfires  had                                                               
increased due  to these  factors and  wildfires had  increased in                                                               
frequency.    She stated  the  importance  of managing  costs  to                                                               
insurers   as  critical   to  maintaining   affordable  insurance                                                               
availability.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN stated  that it was possible for  insurers to either                                                               
raise  costs  or  cease providing  insurance  and  asked  whether                                                               
either consequence had occurred in the State of California.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS.  COLLINS  stated that  both  had  occurred  in the  State  of                                                               
California.    She  stated  that  proposed  rate  increases  were                                                               
subject  to  approval  by  the  State  of  California  Regulatory                                                               
Authority,  Department  of  Insurance.   She  stated  that  other                                                               
regulations had been  imposed on insurers that  made it difficult                                                               
to  manage the  portfolio of  [liability] exposures  in a  manner                                                               
common  in   other  states,  and  that   destabilization  in  the                                                               
marketplace had resulted.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
1:44:01 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SNYDER asked  whether  there  existed in  current                                                               
statute  a  clear directive  on  what  should  be included  in  a                                                               
vegetation management  plan and  what regulatory  oversight would                                                               
exist, or whether that was the intent of HB 29, as proposed.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  CLAMAN  stated his  understanding  that  it would  be  the                                                               
intent  to  establish  regulatory  authority  by  the  Regulatory                                                               
Commission  of   Alaska  for  vegetation  management   plans  for                                                               
utilities in  statute with the passage  of HB 29.   He added that                                                               
the legislation passed  in the State of Utah had  resulted in its                                                               
regulatory  commission  establishing   standards  for  vegetation                                                               
management plans.   He asked  Mr. Leman, General Counsel  for the                                                               
Alaska Power Association (APA)to further explain.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
1:46:42 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
ANDY  LEMAN, General  Counsel, Alaska  Power Association,  stated                                                               
his belief that the statements  made by Representative Snyder and                                                               
Chair  Claman were  correct, that  no such  statutory requirement                                                               
exists.   He expressed  his desire  to continue  conversations to                                                               
address any  concerns on  behalf of  utility companies,  and that                                                               
some  locations  in  the  state   would  not  require  vegetation                                                               
management plans [due to terrain]  and that other companies would                                                               
be  compelled to  have  a  plan for  operational  stability.   He                                                               
stated that  it was worth  noting for  the committee that  may of                                                               
the  utility  customers  in  Alaska  are  owners  of  cooperative                                                               
utility   companies,   which  results   in   a   high  level   of                                                               
accountability on the part of  the utility companies that may not                                                               
otherwise exist.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN  asked whether  a lack  of any  regulatory oversight                                                               
for  determining  the  adequacy of  vegetation  management  plans                                                               
could result  in potential litigation  regarding the  adequacy of                                                               
any such plans.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR. LEMAN  answered that  the determination  of liability  in the                                                               
case of [damages from a]  wildfire would be a reasonable person's                                                               
standard of  negligence and that  experts would likely  be called                                                               
upon to  analyze whether a plan  existed and whether it  had been                                                               
adequate.    He stated  that  it  had not  been  a  goal [of  the                                                               
proposed bill] to  provide absolute immunity to  utilities but to                                                               
better define  in advance where  liability may exist, such  as in                                                               
the case of vegetation inside outside  of a utility right of way,                                                               
and to set a standard for such a plan.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
1:50:42 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN asked  how much the state had spent  on fighting the                                                               
McKinley fire, the Swan Lake  fire, and the Deshka [Landing] fire                                                               
and to  explain the funding  mechanisms associated  with fighting                                                               
fires.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
NORM  MCDONALD,  Fire  Program  Manager,  Division  of  Forestry,                                                               
Department of Natural Resources,  answered that the final billing                                                               
would take  place within the  next month and  offered preliminary                                                               
cost  data.   He explained  that the  Swan Lake  fire cost  $44.5                                                               
million and had originated on U.  S. Fish & Wildlife Service land                                                               
and  was 100  percent reimbursable  resulting in  no cost  to the                                                               
state.  He stated that  the Deshka Landing fire was approximately                                                               
a  couple thousand  acres which  he  characterized as  relatively                                                               
small.  He  added that it had occurred west  of the Parks Highway                                                               
in the state-owned Matanuska-Susitna  (Mat-Su) area and cost $3.9                                                               
million.   He stated that  it had  been caused by  a four-wheeler                                                               
and  had  not occurred  due  to  any  power  line [mishap.]    He                                                               
explained that the McKinley fire,  which had also occurred in the                                                               
Mat-Su area outside  of Willow, Alaska cost $14.3  million and 86                                                               
percent had occurred on state land.   He added that the remainder                                                               
of that  fire [liability] was  borne by  the U. S.  Department of                                                               
the Interior.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN asked for clarification  that the Sawn Lake fire had                                                               
cost the state approximately $44.5  million, and that the federal                                                               
government would reimburse the state 100 percent [of the cost.]                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR. MCDONALD  answered that the  cost had been  approximately $27                                                               
million to the state, and  that costs would be reimbursed through                                                               
a mechanism called cross-billing.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  CLAMAN asked  whether [the  difference  between the  $44.5                                                               
million and the $27 million] was  the amount paid directly by the                                                               
federal government to fight the fire.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR. MCDONALD confirmed this as correct.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  CLAMAN  asked whether  the  $3.9  million for  the  Deshka                                                               
[Landing] fire had been spent by the State of Alaska.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR. MCDONALD  confirmed this  as correct  and explained  that any                                                               
fire  that starts  on state,  private, or  municipal land  is the                                                               
responsibility  of the  State of  Alaska,  Department of  Natural                                                               
Resources,  Division  of  Forestry  and  added  that  the  Deshka                                                               
Landing faire had  started on state land and  [had been contained                                                               
to] state, private, or municipal lands.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  CLAMAN asked  whether there  existed a  potential for  the                                                               
state to recover any costs associated with the fire.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR. MCDONALD answered that a  potential cost recovery could exist                                                               
via  the   Federal  Emergency   Management  Agency   (FEMA)  Fire                                                               
Management Assistance  Grants (FMAG) for both  the Deshka Landing                                                               
and McKinley fires,  both of which qualified for  an estimated 75                                                               
percent cost recovery from FEMA.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN  asked what potential  exists for cost  recovery for                                                               
insurance companies or private entities  for cost recovery in the                                                               
Deshka Landing or McKinley fires.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MR. MCDONALD answered  that there exists a process  in which each                                                               
fire  is  investigated  by  the   Alaska  Department  of  Natural                                                               
Resources and  the Alaska Attorney General's  Office to determine                                                               
origin  and cause  and  whether negligence  exists.   He  further                                                               
explained   that,  should   negligence  be   determined  in   the                                                               
investigation, cost recovery would be  sought.  He explained that                                                               
the investigation of  the Deshka Landing fire  had determined the                                                               
origin of the  fire to be on  state land and to  have been caused                                                               
by a  four-wheeler but that  it had  not determined who  had been                                                               
operating the  four-wheeler and  so no  attempt at  cost recovery                                                               
could be  made.   He added  that costs not  covered by  FEMA FMAG                                                               
funds would be borne by the state.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN  asked whether  additional cost  recovery mechanisms                                                               
had been identified for the McKinley fire.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR.  MCDONALD stated  that he  was aware  that some  civil claims                                                               
associated  with the  McKinley fire  existed for  individuals who                                                               
lost property,  but he stated  he was  unaware of any  other cost                                                               
recovery efforts underway.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  CLAMAN  asked  to  confirm that  those  claims  [for  cost                                                               
recovery]  were being  sought by  individual homeowners  and were                                                               
not efforts put forth by the state.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MR. MCDONALD confirmed this as correct.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
1:57:14 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE DRUMMOND asked  whether it had been  the intent of                                                               
the APCIA and  NAMIC to promote the  Alaska Regulatory Commission                                                               
to create a  wildfire protection plan.  She asked  whether such a                                                               
plan already exists.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN  answered that  the state does  not have  a wildfire                                                               
protection plan  and stated  that the  language suggested  by the                                                               
groups had been  to model Alaska law similarly to  that which had                                                               
passed in the State of Utah.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  DRUMMOND  asked  what  the  difference  would  be                                                               
between  a wildfire  protection  plan and  a wildland  protection                                                               
plan.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  CLAMAN  suggested  that   the  committee  should  consider                                                               
whether the  Regulatory Commission  of Alaska should  be involved                                                               
in creating  plans or approving  plans for  vegetation management                                                               
[for utility companies.]                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
1:59:18 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KURKA  asked  whether  any fires  in  Alaska  had                                                               
occurred because of negligence on the part of a utility company.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN referred  to a document entitled,  "HB 29 Additional                                                               
Document  - Anchorage  Daily News  Article  (Distributed by  HJUD                                                               
Committee) 3.28.2021.pdf," [included in  the committee packet] in                                                               
which  the  Matanuska  Electric Association  was  involved  in  a                                                               
lawsuit brought  by insurance  companies which  had not  yet been                                                               
ruled on in court.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MR. LEMAN  offered that he  believes there was one  other lawsuit                                                               
with  a  similar  scenario.    He stated  that  interest  in  the                                                               
proposed legislation  on the part  of utility companies  had been                                                               
prompted by  wildfires and resulting  lawsuits that  had occurred                                                               
in other states.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KURKA  asked for additional  information resulting                                                               
from investigations  by the State  of Alaska  determining whether                                                               
liability  for  wildfires had  been  found  to  be on  a  utility                                                               
company.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR.  MCDONALD  offered that  between  2011  and 2019,  there  had                                                               
occurred  313 power  line fires  within Alaska,  the largest  and                                                               
most expensive of which were  the McKinley fire, Twin Creek fire,                                                               
and the  Tyonek fire.   He  stated that the  Tyonek fire  was the                                                               
only fire to his recollection  that could have been litigated but                                                               
was instead settled out of court.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN asked whether any  lawsuits had been associated with                                                               
the Twin Creek fire on Kodiak.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MR. MCDONALD  answered that none had  been filed by the  State of                                                               
Alaska and he stated that he  was unaware of any private lawsuits                                                               
that may have occurred.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KURKA asked whether any  finding of fault had been                                                               
determined to have originated outside of the [utility] easement.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR.  MCDONALD stated  that  he would  inquire  with the  Attorney                                                               
General's Office and follow up with the committee.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE EASTMAN stated that two  of the fires had occurred                                                               
in his  district and  that the  costs that  had been  provided in                                                               
earlier  testimony  had  been associated  with  fire  suppression                                                               
efforts and did not include structural damages.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  CLAMAN asked  the  will  of the  committee  on whether  it                                                               
wished to move HB 29 out of committee.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
2:06:04 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  VANCE  said that  she  would  like to  hear  from                                                               
utility  companies about  proposed language.   She  mentioned the                                                               
balance that needed  to be struck between  the insurance industry                                                               
and utility companies regarding  liability and increased costs to                                                               
consumers.    She  asked whether  a  vegetation  management  plan                                                               
definition [in statute] would further achieve that balance.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN  asked if APA was  prepared to offer its  opinion on                                                               
proposed Utah statute                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR. LEMAN  stated that  APA would  appreciate additional  time to                                                               
consider the recommended language.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE VANCE  offered to  clarify her  previous statement                                                               
to ask  whether a clarified  vegetation management plan  would be                                                               
helpful or burdensome to the rate payers.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  CLAMAN echoed  Representative  Vance's previous  statement                                                               
that there exists  a third consideration of  the potential impact                                                               
to rate payers  and homeowners regarding cost of  rebuilding.  He                                                               
stated  that  the  committee  would   be  interested  in  hearing                                                               
additional   testimony   from   interested   parties,   including                                                               
testimony from the APA on its  position on whether a uniform plan                                                               
or  an  approval  structure with  the  Regulatory  Commission  of                                                               
Alaska.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN stated that HB 29 would be held over.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
2:12:08 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
ADJOURNMENT                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
There being no further business before the committee, the House                                                                 
Judiciary Standing Committee meeting was adjourned at 2:12 p.m.                                                                 

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
Commission on Judicial Conduct Appointment - Aldean Kilbourn Application 4.9.2021.pdf HJUD 4/9/2021 1:00:00 PM
Commission on Judicial Conduct Appointment - Jane Mores Resume 4.9.2021.pdf HJUD 4/9/2021 1:00:00 PM
HB 29 v. A 2.18.2021.PDF HJUD 3/22/2021 1:30:00 PM
HJUD 3/29/2021 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 4/9/2021 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 4/16/2021 1:00:00 PM
HB 29
HB 29 Sponsor Statement 3.22.2021.pdf HJUD 3/22/2021 1:30:00 PM
HJUD 3/29/2021 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 4/9/2021 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 4/16/2021 1:00:00 PM
HB 29
HB 29 Supporting Document - Electric Utility Liability Information 3.22.2021.pdf HJUD 3/22/2021 1:30:00 PM
HJUD 3/29/2021 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 4/9/2021 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 4/16/2021 1:00:00 PM
HB 29
HB 29 Supporting Document - APA Letter 3.1.2021.pdf HJUD 3/22/2021 1:30:00 PM
HJUD 3/29/2021 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 4/9/2021 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 4/16/2021 1:00:00 PM
HB 29
HB 29 Supporting Document - CVEA Letter 3.9.2021.pdf HJUD 3/22/2021 1:30:00 PM
HJUD 3/29/2021 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 4/9/2021 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 4/16/2021 1:00:00 PM
HB 29
HB 29 Supporting Document - GVEA Letter 3.16.2021.pdf HJUD 3/22/2021 1:30:00 PM
HJUD 3/29/2021 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 4/9/2021 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 4/16/2021 1:00:00 PM
HB 29
HB 29 Additional Document - Anchorage Daily News Article (Distributed by HJUD Committee) 3.28.2021.pdf HJUD 3/29/2021 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 4/9/2021 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 4/16/2021 1:00:00 PM
HB 29
HB 29 Opposing Document - Testimony Received by 3.29.2021.pdf HJUD 3/29/2021 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 4/9/2021 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 4/16/2021 1:00:00 PM
HB 29
HB 29 v. A Amendment #1 HJUD Final Vote 3.29.2021.pdf HJUD 3/29/2021 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 4/9/2021 1:00:00 PM
HB 29
HB 29 Additional Document - Communications with American Property Casualty Insurance Association (Distributed by HJUD Committee) 4.7.2021.pdf HJUD 4/9/2021 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 4/16/2021 1:00:00 PM
HB 29
HB 29 Additional Document - HB 66 Utah Wildland Fire Planning and Cost Recovery Amendments (Distributed by HJUD Committee) 4.7.2021.pdf HJUD 4/9/2021 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 4/16/2021 1:00:00 PM
HB 29
HB 29 Additional Document - APCIA and NAMIC Joint Letter to HJUD 4.9.2021.pdf HJUD 4/9/2021 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 4/16/2021 1:00:00 PM
HB 29
HB 29 Additional Document - APCIA and NAMIC Draft Amendment to HB 29 (Distributed by the HJUD Committee) 4.9.2021.pdf HJUD 4/9/2021 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 4/16/2021 1:00:00 PM
HB 29
HB 29 Fiscal Note LAW-CIV 3.12.2021.pdf HJUD 3/22/2021 1:30:00 PM
HJUD 3/29/2021 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 4/9/2021 1:00:00 PM
HB 29