California Department of Insurance Sponsors AB 2238 (Rivas) Establish Heat Wave Ranking System in California

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By Julia Zeigler

AB 2238 (Rivas), as amended March 23, 2022, would add Part 5.5 (commencing with section 71410) to Division 34 of the Public Resources Code to establish a publicly accessible ranking system for heat waves, with clear categories based on heat intensity and health impacts that would provide early warning to communities. The bill also seeks to enable public policymakers to craft prevention strategies and risk reduction measures. Sponsored by the California Department of Insurance (DOI), the bill would implement a recommendation from the California Climate Insurance Working Group’s report on climate insurance released in 2021. [27:1 CRLR 203] The bill contains a series of legislative findings and declarations stating that the purpose of this legislation is to create a statewide advance warning and ranking system of extreme heat waves in order to help save lives and protect communities. Citing the most recent Climate Change Assessment, the bill contains a finding that “heat waves and extreme heat are responsible for more deaths than all other extreme weather events and disproportionately impact communities of color, persons with disabilities, seniors, and low-income communities.” In a November 21, 2021 press release, Commissioner Lara stated, “[j]ust as we have air quality alerts, categories for tropical hurricanes, and red flag warnings for wildfires, California needs a way to warn our residents about extreme heat waves which will only grow deadlier in the years ahead.”

The new Public Resources Code section 71410(a)(3) would direct the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal EPA) to work in coordination with DOI and the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) to create and implement a statewide extreme heat ranking system. Heat-wave ranking would include the projected health impact and meteorological data, such as maximum and minimum temperatures, as well as how long a heat wave is anticipated to persist.

Pursuant to section 71410(d)(3) DOI would be required to study the insured and uninsured costs related to past extreme heat waves to identify “insurance gaps” of uncovered costs and promote more effective risk communication and planning.

A hearing before the Assembly Insurance Committee is scheduled for March 30, 2022.

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