Policy & Popcorn: “Wildfire Safety: The Role of the Public Advocate’s Office”

About the Session
Catastrophic wildfires are a growing threat in California. Mitigating this threat requires electric utilities to diligently maintain infrastructure, clear vegetation around electric lines, and otherwise respond proactively to risk. This session will:
  • Explore the role that the Public Advocate's Office at the California Public Utilities Commission plays in ensuring that utilities fulfill such responsibilities.
  • Review the history of utility-caused wildfires in California, penalties recently imposed on PG&E, and efforts currently underway to prevent similar tragedies in the future.
  • Address concerns about the likelihood that wildfires or preemptive de-energization will affect Californians this year during the Covid-19 pandemic.
About the Speaker
Henry Burton is the Wildfire Safety Supervisor for the Public Advocate's Office, an independent consumer advocacy agency that represents customers in the California Public Utilities Commission's decision-making processes. Henry supervises a team of policy analysts and engineers who work to prevent California's electric utilities from causing wildfires.

Previously, Henry was a senior policy analyst on energy efficiency issues in the Public Advocate's Office. Before moving to the Bay Area, he worked on flood risk management in the Portland area, where he led a project to develop a long-run plan to manage Portland's levee system. He has also served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Benin and a legislative aide in Washington, DC. Henry has a master's degree in economics and public policy from the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs.