A bill to create an extreme heat warning and ranking system in California was moved to the suspense file on Wednesday following consideration in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
Assembly Bill 2238, jointly authored by Assemblywoman Luz Rivas (D-North Hollywood) and Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), would create the ranking and advance warning system in conjunction wit the Department of Insurance and the Integrated Climate Adaptation and Resiliency Program (ICARP), a wing of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) that focuses on climate change impacts. Such a system would be developed by January 2024 and would also require ICARP to develop a public program around the ranking system and work with local and tribal governments in implementing the system locally, develop guidance in preparing and planning for extreme heat, and recommend adaptation measures.
According to AB 2238, heat wave ranking itself would be based on the projected health impact of the wave, meteorological and weather data, and how long the wave is expected to last. Once fully up, heat wave rankings are planned to be as ubiquitous as current air quality alerts and forest/wildfire danger levels.
Finally, the Department of Insurance will need to send in a study by the end of 2023 of the insured and uninsured costs related to past extreme heat events to the appropriate legislative policy and budget committees, the agency, and ICARP in order to find gaps in insurance coverage in areas frequented by extreme heat waves.
“California’s climate has become increasingly erratic – we must take bold action to protect our residents from climate crises like extreme heat, which has intensified in both severity and occurrence,” Assemblywoman Rivas said in February. “For years, I have elevated extreme heat policy issues because we cannot keep leaving our most vulnerable residents exposed to dangerous heat waves without proper warning or preparation.”
Since being introduced in February as a way to help Californians be alerted to and be prepared for future high heat events, AB 2238 has faced something of a roller coaster of a ride through the Assembly. While it was first unanimously passed in the Assembly Natural Resources Committee in mid-March, concern over some of the bill’s language led to some amendments, including a complete new definition of what ‘extreme heat’ meant. That was good enough for the Assembly Insurance Committee on March 30th, who once again passed it unanimously.
AB 2238 in Appropriations Committee
However, after being initially heard before the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, the final step before an Assembly-wide vote, concern over the fiscal impact of AB 2238 led it to be sent to the suspense file.
“We’re beginning to see days in California where it is too hot to work or days where outdoor watering is stunted by the heat evaporating water before it can reach plants,” said suburban gardening and landscaping advisor Marco Hernandez to the Globe on Thursday. “We had a few days last year we had to call off regular mowing services because of the heat. You know, we don’t want our guys dying out there. So this is a system that would be useful I guess, but honestly, just watching the weather on the news or looking it up online would really just fulfill the same purpose.”
“It can tell us what time of day we should water, if it will be too hot to work, how much water is needed, and with all these upcoming water restrictions, just how much we can do to conserve water at the same time we water enough so plants don’t die.”
“And this is just for me for landscaping and gardening. Other people who work outside like those in construction or outdoor vending or other things like that, they’ll need to pay attention too. This is a useful bill, but I kind of agree we need to look at the costs of it all first closely. If it is a big price tag, why not just go for a cheaper option of raising awareness to check the weather beforehand? People in other parts of the country use it for snow storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, what have you. They have warnings for that too of course, but that’s just for more unpredictable things like natural disasters. Heat you can pretty much predict what and where it will be.”
AB 2238 will likely be moved from the suspense file back to the normal bill process soon.