The Costs of Wildfire in California
CCST studies follow a process modeled after the National Academies study process with checks and balances at each stage. The report is a collaborative effort by a large number of experts serving in various capacities.
Steering Committee Members
CCST study steering committees oversee the report authors, reach conclusions based on the findings of the authors and draft an executive summary.
Committee Selection and Approval
Selection of appropriate committee members, individually and collectively, is essential for the success of a study. All committee members serve as individual experts, not as representatives of organizations or interest groups. Each member is expected to contribute to the project on the basis of his or her own expertise and good judgment. A committee is not finally approved until a thorough balance and conflict-of-interest discussion is held, and any issues raised in that discussion are investigated and addressed. Members of a committee are anonymous until this process is completed.
Careful steps are taken to convene committees that meet the following criteria:
The committee must include experts with the speciﬁc expertise and experience needed to address the study's statement of task. A major strength of CCST is the ability to bring together recognized experts from diverse disciplines and backgrounds who might not otherwise collaborate. These diverse groups are encouraged to conceive new ways of thinking about a problem.
Having content expertise is not sufﬁcient for success. It is also essential to evaluate the overall composition of the SC in terms of different experiences and perspectives. The goal is to ensure that the relevant points of view are, in CCST’s and the Program Committee’s judgment, reasonably balanced so that the SC can carry out its charge objectively and credibly.
All provisional SC members are screened in writing and in a conﬁdential group discussion about possible conﬂicts of interest. For this purpose, a "conﬂict of interest" means any ﬁnancial or other interest which conﬂicts with the individual’s service because it could signiﬁcantly impair the individual's objectivity or could create an unfair competitive advantage for any person or organization. The term "conﬂict of interest" is beyond individual bias. There must be an interest, ordinarily ﬁnancial, that could influence the work of the SC or that could be directly affected by the work of the SC, for an individual to be disqualified from serving. Except for a rare situation in which CCST and the Program Committee determine that a conﬂict of interest is unavoidable and promptly and publicly disclose the conﬂict of interest, no individual will be appointed to serve (or continue to serve) on a SC used in the development of studies while having a conﬂict of interest relevant to the required functions.
SC members and authors continue to be screened for conﬂict of interest at regular intervals throughout the life of the committee. (In addition to the SC and Authors, co-authors, peer reviewers and CCST staff working on each project are also screened for COI.)
Point of View
Point of View
A point of view or bias is not necessarily a conﬂict of interest. SC members are expected to have points of view, and CCST attempts to balance these points of view in a way deemed appropriate for the task. SC members are asked to consider respectfully the viewpoints of other members, to reﬂect their own views rather than be a representative of any organization, and to base their scientiﬁc ﬁndings and conclusions on the evidence. Each SC member has the right to issue a dissenting opinion to the study if he or she disagrees with the consensus of the other members. COIs are updated throughout the study process to capture any new or updated information and to ensure a continued lack of conflicts.
Membership in CCST is taken into account in SC selection. The inclusion of women, minorities, and young professionals are additional considerations.
Staff solicit an extensive number of suggestions for potential committee members from a wide range of sources, then recommend a slate of nominees. Nominees are reviewed and approved at several levels within CCST.
A provisional slate is then approved by the Program Committee of CCST's Board. The provisional committee members complete background information and conflict-of-interest disclosure forms. The committee balance and conflict-of-interest discussion is held at the first committee meeting. Any conflicts of interest or issues of committee balance and expertise are investigated; changes to the committee are proposed and finalized.
The Program Committee of CCST's Board formally approves the committee. Committee members continue to be screened for conflict of interest throughout the life of the committee.
Committee Members' Bios
Michael Wara (Chair) Ph.D
Steering Committee Chair
Director of the Climate and Energy Policy Program and a senior research scholar
Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment
Michael Wara is a lawyer and scholar focused on climate and energy policy. Wara is Director of the Climate and Energy Policy Program and a senior research scholar at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, where he provides fact-based, bipartisan, technical and legal assistance to policymakers engaged in the development of novel climate and energy law and regulation. He also facilitates the connection of Stanford faculty with cutting edge policy debates on climate and energy, leveraging Stanford’s energy and climate expertise to craft real world solutions to these challenges.
Wara’s legal and policy scholarship focuses on carbon pricing, energy innovation, and regulated industries. He collaborates with economists, engineers and scientists in research on the design and evaluation of technical and regulatory solutions to climate and energy challenges. He is also an expert on international environmental law with a particular focus on the ozone and climate treaty regimes.
Wara conducts research, advises and has testified before California and US Congressional legislative committees on issues related to wildfire and utilities. Wara served as a Commissioner on the Commission on Catastrophic Wildfire Cost and Recovery that proposed creation of a Wildfire Insurance Fund. He currently serves on the California Catastrophe Response Council, which oversees the Wildfire Fund created by AB 1054.
Prior to joining Woods, Wara was an associate professor at Stanford Law School and an associate in Holland & Knight’s government practice. He received his J.D. from Stanford Law School and his Ph.D. in Ocean Sciences from the University of California at Santa Cruz.
Michael Wara has served as a CCST Steering Committee member for the report, Long-Term Viability of Underground Natural Gas Storage in California, released in 2018.
Judson Boomhower Ph.D
Assistant Professor, Department of Economics
UC San Diego
Judson Boomhower is an assistant professor in the Department of Economics at the University of California San Diego and a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He is an applied microeconomist who studies environmental and energy economics and policy. He received his PhD in Agricultural and Resource Economics from the University of California, Berkeley. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stanford.
Current work in progress includes:
Mitigating and Managing Extreme Wildfire Risk in California
A multi-campus research effort focused on understanding and managing wildfire risk and electricity infrastructure.
Moral Hazard, Wildfires, and the Economic Incidence of Natural Disasters (2019)
This study measures the degree to which large public expenditures on wildfire protection subsidize development in harm’s way. Using administrative firefighting data, we calculate geographically-differentiated implicit subsidies to homeowners throughout the western USA. We first examine how the presence of homes affects firefighting expenditures. These results are used to reconstruct the implied historical cost of protecting each home and to perform an actuarial calculation of expected future protection cost. The expected net present value of this subsidy increases with fire risk and decreases surprisingly steeply with development density. A simple conceptual model is used to explore effects on expansion of developed areas, density, and private risk-reducing investments.
Boomhower was lead author on the CCST report, Orphan Wells in California, released 2020.
Co-Founder, Chair of the Board, and Chief Strategist
Former California State Fire Marshal
Kate Dargan began her career as a firefighter at age 18 and worked her way up, becoming a fire chief and State Fire Marshal (CAL FIRE), the first woman to serve California in that capacity. She has responded to emergencies and disasters around the state and worked on boards, committees, councils, and task forces to advance wildland-urban interface fire safety. Dargan is widely recognized for her consensus-building style and innovative approaches to old problems.
In 2010 Dargan co-founded Intterra, a successful situational awareness and analytics software company for firefighters, holding the position of CEO until 2016. She currently serves as Chief Strategist and Chair of the Board.
She is currently a Board Member of the California Firesafe Council (CFSC), a nonprofit formed as a project of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) in 1993.
Peter Larsen Ph.D
Staff Scientist and Deputy Leader
Electricity Markets & Policy Department
Energy Analysis & Environmental Impacts Division
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Peter Larsen is a Research Scientist and Deputy Group Leader in the Electricity Markets and Policy Group at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He conducts research and analysis on electricity reliability and resiliency, energy efficiency, and regional electric system planning including: Energy Services Company Industry and Market Trends; Utility Resource Planning Practices and Trends; Western Electricity and Natural Gas Markets; Societal Impacts from Abnormal Weather; and the Reliability of the U.S. Power System.
Larsen’s work includes Project Lead for Berkeley Lab’s Interruption Cost Estimate Calculator, and he is interested in the economic impact of past and future Public Safety Power Shutoffs.
Larsen has published his research in a number of reports, book chapters, and peer-reviewed journals including the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Global Environmental Change, Annual Review of Environment and Resources, Energy Policy, and Energy Economics. Previously, he worked at the Institute of Social and Economic Research in Anchorage, Alaska, the Societal Impacts Program at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and Stratus Consulting (now Abt Associates).
Larsen holds a Ph.D. in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University; M.S. degrees from Stanford University (Management Science and Engineering) and Cornell University (Natural Resource Economics); and a B.A. in Economics from the University of Montana at Missoula.
Mary Prunicki Ph.D
Director of Air Pollution and Health Research
Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy & Asthma Research, Stanford University
Since coming to the Nadeau immunology laboratory at Stanford University in 2014, Dr. Prunicki has designed and executed numerous innovative air pollution and wildfire projects. Lab studies have primarily focused on Fresno, CA, a city always in the top four in the nation for ozone and particle pollution and also exposed to the wildfire smoke from forest fires in Yosemite. Research findings have resulted in publication in high-impact journals, shaping of public policy and extensive media exposure. Dr. Prunicki is especially passionate about helping at-risk populations, such as children and the underserved, who disproportionately share the burden of air pollution exposure. Prunicki received her PhD from Northwestern University and her MD from Southern Illinois University.
Dr. Prunicki’s research involves the investigation of the impact of environmental exposures on the immune system. Overall findings indicate that ambient air pollution exposures to CO, NO2, and PM2.5 mediate epigenetic alterations of Foxp3 and IL-10, key genes known to be associated with T cells and atopic disease. Similar epigenetic associations have been found with wildfire smoke exposure, in addition to increases in inflammatory cytokines.
Recent publications include:
Prunicki M, Kelsey R, Lee J, …, Nadeau K. The Impact of Prescribed Fire versus Wildfire on the Immune and Cardiovascular Systems of Children. Allergy 2019 Oct;74(10):1989-1991. PMCID: PMC6801011.
Prunicki M, Dant CC, Cao S, …, Nadeau K. Immunologic effects of forest fire exposure show increases in IL-1β and CRP. Allergy. 2020 Feb 28. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 32112439.
Prunicki, M, Miller, S, Hopkins, A, Poulin, M, Movassagh, H, Yan, L and Nadeau, K. Wildfire smoke exposure is associated with decreased methylation of the PDL2 gene. J Immunol May 1, 2020, 204 (1 Supplement) 146.17.
Alexandra Syphard Ph.D
Versus Wildfire Insurance Services
San Diego State University
Conservation Biology Institute
Alexandra D. Syphard, Ph.D. is chief scientist at Vertus Wildfire Insurance Services, Senior Research Scientist for the Conservation Biology Institute and an adjunct professor at San Diego State University. As a researcher, she has spent more than two decades analyzing the ecological and social drivers and impacts of landscape change, particularly focusing on wildfires in California, USA and other Mediterranean-climate ecosystems. Syphard uses a variety of geospatial, statistical, and modeling approaches to investigate how and why change has occurred in the past, how it is likely to occur in the future, and how different policy or management decisions may impact ecological and social well-being. Her extensive research on wildfire risk to communities forms the scientific basis for underwriting homeowners’ insurance in fire-prone ecosystems. Dr. Syphard’s work also focuses on the interactions among wildfire patterns, land use change and urban growth, climate change, vegetation dynamics and biodiversity, invasive species, and plant species’ range shifts.
Syphard earned her PhD in Geography from San Diego State University and the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2005. She also received a BA in English from the University of Mary Washington, a Masters of Public Health at the Medical College of Virginia, and a Masters in Environmental Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. Syphard also completed a postdoctoral research fellowship in the Department of Forest Ecology & Management at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Biology at San Diego State.
The process of peer review is the cornerstone of the research evaluation process in the physical sciences, life sciences and engineering.
All CCST reports are peer reviewed using guidelines and processes established by CCST to assure the highest scientific and technical standards. Guidelines are similar to those of the National Academy of Sciences, adapted to be appropriate for California.