SB 1088

SHOULD STATE APPROVE “BAIL OUT” BILLS TO EASE UTILITIES’ LIABILITY FOR WILDFIRES?

 

 

Companies say measures are needed to prevent bankruptcies, but Ramona group says the bills would increase risks of wildfires by axing incentives for utilities to improve safety

 

By Miriam Raftery

 

July 26, 2018 (Ramona) – Utilities are lobbying legislators to approve a pair of bills being pushed by Governor Jerry Brown in the wake of catastrophic fire storms  in Northern California linked to utility-owned lines and equipment.  Facing $10 billion in damages with reportedly only about $800,000 in insurance, PG&E has argued it could be pushed into bankruptcy without relief.  The utilities want to change California’s inverse condemnation laws, which hold utilities responsible for any fires caused by their lines. However, if a company is found to have safely operated its equipment, it can ask the California Public Utilities Commission to approve charging ratepayers for uninsured losses.

 

San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) tried that approach, but the CPUC refused to approve charging ratepayers for the company’s liabilities in the 2007 firestorms, finding that SDG&E did not follow all required safety procedures. Now the big utility companies want to eliminate inverse condemnation in relation to wildfires--a proposal that has backcountry residents sounding the alarm.