The California Water Association’s (CWA) Spring Conference kicked off in Sacramento on May 23 with welcoming remarks by CWA 2nd Vice President and Conference Program Chair Edward Jackson. Highlighting the conference theme, “Fire and Water – Survival and Sustainability,” Senator Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park) provided the opening keynote address, saying he didn’t want the state’s water utilities left behind as the Legislature addresses wildfire issues associated with damage claims and helping victims recover from their devastating losses. His address was followed by a panel discussion on Inverse Condemnation Liability – “But It’s Not My Fault”. The panel, which included insurance expert Paul Fuller, Nossaman LLP Partner Bradford Kuhn, and Chris Lyons, Senior Counsel at San Diego Gas & Electric Company, covered the nearly unique California interpretation of liability law that allows water utilities to be saddled with the costs of damage from fires they did not start. Moderated by California Water Service (Cal Water) Vice President, General Counsel Lynne McGhee, the panel confronted the reality faced by California now – how wildfires are threatening the state’s drinking water supply. John Faust of Cal EPA’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment described OEHHA’s new Affordability Framework for Evaluating Progress on the Human Right to Water. Matthew Payne, Principal with WestWater Research, presented some compelling points in Valuing Water Rights in a Utility Consolidation.
The morning session closed with an address from the newest commissioner at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), Genevieve Shiroma, on the CPUC’s Multi-Dimensional Approach to Today’s Safety Challenges. She discussed the many proceedings related to wildfire mitigation, disaster relief, and climate change, noting that the CPUC has adopted an “all-hands-on-deck” approach to expediting these proceedings while still providing the proper degree of due process for all parties.
During lunch, State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) Member Laurel Firestone discussed how she plans to work with the SWRCB staff to address Governor Newsom’s two biggest water priorities – affordable, safe drinking water and water supply resiliency. The afternoon session included a supplier diversity update from Cal Water’s Jose Espinoza; a Drinking Water Regulatory Program update by SWRCB Deputy Director Darrin Polhemus, Division of Drinking Water; and Eurofins Eaton Analytical, LLC’s Account Manager Rick Zimmer’s presentation on When Legislation Meets Water Quality Standards – PFAS and Microplastics. The conference concluded with a panel discussion on California’s 2019 legislative session moderated by Jennifer Capitolo, Senior Policy Advisor, Nossaman LLP. She was joined by Danielle Blacet of the California Municipal Utilities Association, Marlaigne Dumaine of East Bay Municipal Utility District, Adam Quiñonez of the Association of California Water Agencies, and Catherine Freeman, Chief Consultant of the Assembly Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee. Several of the conference presentations are available online at www.cwacontent.local/event/2019-cwa-spring-conference/.
CWA’s 2019 Annual Conference will be held in Monterey, CA on November 14, 2019.