cloudy.png
Sunday October 25th, 2020 3:25PM

California approves measure to pass on wildfire costs

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The California Legislature voted Friday to allow power companies to raise electric bills to cover the cost of lawsuits from last year's deadly wildfires amid fears that Pacific Gas & Electric Co., would otherwise face financial ruin.

The measure is part of a wide-ranging plan to reduce the threat of wildfires, which have killed dozens of people and destroyed thousands of homes in recent years.

Consumer advocates and large energy users blasted legislation they say is a bailout for PG&E, which expects to pay billions of dollars due to fires started by the company's equipment in Northern California last year. The company would be allowed to charge their customers even if the fires are linked to mismanagement by the company.

"Everybody's getting protected, but customers," said Michael Boccadoro, executive director of the Agricultural Energy Consumers Association. "Utility shareholders are protected. Trial attorneys are protected. Insurers are protected. Victims are protected. Labor's protected. Unfortunately, they forgot to protect customers."

California courts have ruled that utilities are entirely liable for damage caused by power lines, even if they've followed all safety regulations. Lawmakers considered changing that standard but backed off amid a barrage of lobbying by wildfire victims and insurance companies.

Fire investigators have blamed PG&E equipment for 12 of last year's wildfires in Northern California's wine country, including two that killed 15 people combined. In eight, investigators said they found evidence of violations of state law and forwarded the findings to county prosecutors. Authorities have not determined fault for the Tubbs Fire, the most destructive in state history, which destroyed thousands of homes in Santa Rosa.

PG&E is facing dozens of lawsuits from insurers, which have spent billions settling insurance claims from homeowners.

Lawmakers worry the costs to PG&E could be so severe that it would struggle to borrow money or would file for bankruptcy, which they fear would lead to even higher spikes in utility bills.

"This is about protecting ratepayers, not helping utilities," said Sen. Bill Dodd, a Napa Democrat who helped craft the legislation. "The fact of the matter is ratepayers would be hurt in a utility bankruptcy."

Regulators generally don't let utilities bill their customers for lawsuits linked to imprudent management of electrical equipment, but the legislation would create a special process for the 2017 fires. It seeks to take as much as possible from PG&E's investors without harming ratepayers. For the rest, the Public Utilities Commission would have the option to let PG&E collect from customers through a line-item on utility bills for the next two decades.

The cost to ratepayers is unknown because it's not clear which fires will ultimately be linked to PG&E and what its final settlement will look like. Dodd said the average residential ratepayer would pay an estimated $5.20 extra for every $1 billion dollars that PG&E must finance.

The bill "puts the needs of wildfire victims first, better equips California to prevent and respond to wildfires, protects electric customers and preserves progress toward California's clean energy goals," PG&E spokeswoman Lynsey Paulo said in a statement.

While the help for utilities is gotten the most attention the bill also includes a variety of other measures to help utility workers

It includes protections for utility workers from job loss or pay and benefit cuts in the event of a utility bankruptcy or change in ownership. That's a major victory for the politically connected International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union.

The bill also would require investor-owned utilities — including PG&E, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric — to harden their equipment so it's less likely to cause fires. It would make it easier, in some circumstances, to do prescribed burns, clear dead trees and brush, log trees and build fire breaks. It includes $200 million a year for those purposes.

It also extends the life of biomass plants, which use trees to generate energy.

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Business, AP Business - Consumer News, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Financial Services, AP Business - Utilities
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
California approves measure to pass on wildfire costs
The California Legislature has approved a measure allowing higher electricity bills to help utilities pay off lawsuits stemming from last year's deadly wildfires
2:20AM ( 14 minutes ago )
Ugandan opposition pop star flies abroad for treatment
Ugandan opposition pop star flies abroad for treatment after alleged torture in detention
2:06AM ( 28 minutes ago )
Serena matches her easiest win over Venus in US Open rout
Serena Williams equaled her most lopsided victory ever in 30 professional meetings with her sister, beating Venus 6-1, 6-2 in the third round of the U.S. Open
2:04AM ( 30 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Trump plans to help one-time rival Cruz in Texas campaign
President Donald Trump is coming to the aid of a one-time rival, Sen. Ted Cruz, suggesting that the Texas Republican is facing a tougher than expected re-election fight
12:46AM ( 1 hour ago )
Obama, Bush _ not Trump _ give McCain presidential farewell
McCain gets presidential sendoff, but not from Trump, who was invited to stay away
12:41AM ( 1 hour ago )
Pepper spray discharges during flight to Hawaii, 15 treated
Hawaiian Airlines says a can of pepper spray went off inside a plane headed from Oakland, California, to Maui, requiring emergency help for several people aboard
12:18AM ( 2 hours ago )
AP National News
Trump says North Carolina redistricting ruling 'unfair'
President Donald Trump says the prospect of North Carolina drawing new districts weeks ahead of the November midterm election is "unfair."
12:49AM ( 1 hour ago )
DeVos: No plans to take action on funding to arm teachers
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos says she has "no intention of taking any action" regarding any possible use of federal funds to arm teachers or provide them with firearms training
12:06AM ( 2 hours ago )
Sex abuse claims raise pressure to reunite migrant families
Allegations that three immigrant children were sexually abused in U.S. custody are raising pressure on the Trump administration to more quickly reunite families separated at the Mexican border
10:54PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Arkansas governor's nephew leaves state Senate amid charges
A nephew of Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has resigned from the state Senate after being charged with spending thousands of dollars in campaign funds on personal expenses
7:06PM ( 7 hours ago )
DeVos says she won't take action on funding to arm teachers
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos says she has "no intention of taking any action" regarding any possible use of federal funds to arm teachers or provide them with firearms training
6:52PM ( 7 hours ago )
Trump calls North Carolina redistricting ruling 'unfair'
President Donald Trump says the prospect of a North Carolina drawing new districts weeks ahead of the November midterm election is "unfair."
6:14PM ( 8 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
Brewers get veteran lefty Gonzalez in trade with Nats
The Milwaukee Brewers got a proven left-handed starter for their stretch run, acquiring Gio Gonzalez from the Washington Nationals in exchange for two minor leaguers and international slot money
11:36PM ( 2 hours ago )
Deadly New Mexico bus crash prompts negligence claims
A California-based trucking company and one of its drivers were accused of negligence Friday as investigators sorted through the wreckage of a deadly bus crash along a New Mexico highway that killed eight people and left many others injured.
10:29PM ( 4 hours ago )
President and stars join in epic farewell to Queen of Soul
A former president and music stars join in epic final farewell to Aretha Franklin
10:28PM ( 4 hours ago )
AP Business
APNewsBreak: Nation's top student loan official resigns
Nation's top official overseeing student loan market resigns, citing White House hostility toward mission
3:06PM ( 4 days ago )
Senate panel approves Trump's nominee for consumer watchdog
The Senate Banking Committee approved Kathy Kraninger, President Trump's nominee to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, despite protests from Senate Democrats who said Trump's nominee is unqualified to run the consumer watchdog
12:18PM ( 1 week ago )
Wildfire victims among those stung by Trump's trade war
The cost of building a home has been rising, in part because of the tariffs President Donald Trump has imposed on imported lumber, nails and other construction material
4:06PM ( 2 weeks ago )
AP Business - Consumer News
Ugandan opposition pop star flies abroad for treatment
Ugandan opposition pop star flies abroad for treatment after alleged torture in detention
5:39PM ( 8 hours ago )
Stocks waver along with US-Canada trade talks
Stocks finish little changed after the U.S. and Canada say they haven't completed a trade deal but will resume talks next week
4:41PM ( 9 hours ago )
Colorado says it's cut methane leaks as Trump eases US rules
Colorado is pointing to how its rules have reduced climate-changing methane leaks from oil fields as the Trump administration looks to roll back U.S. regulations
2:19PM ( 12 hours ago )
AP Business - Industries
Indian currency decree did little to root out 'black money'
India's central bank says nearly all the currency removed from circulation in a surprise 2016 move to root out untaxed stockpiles of cash re-entered the financial system
9:00PM ( 1 day ago )
Argentina hikes interest rate to 60 percent; peso plunges
Argentina's Central Bank has increased its benchmark interest rate to 60 percent in an effort to halt a sharp slide in the value of the peso
6:48PM ( 1 day ago )
Mnuchin praises Fed's Powell as 'phenomenal leader'
Treasury Secretary Mnuchin praises Fed chairman as 'phenomenal leader' after recent Trump attacks
3:56PM ( 3 days ago )
AP Business - Financial Services
Researchers feed seaweed to dairy cows to reduce emissions
University of California researchers feed seaweed to cows, seeking to reduce methane emissions
1:00AM ( 1 day ago )
Canada court halts Pacific pipeline in blow to Trudeau
Canada's Federal Court of Appeal has halted the contentious Trans Mountain pipeline expansion that would nearly triple the flow of oil from the Alberta oil sands to the Pacific Coast
8:23PM ( 1 day ago )
Court quashes Canada's approval of pipeline
Canada's Federal Court of Appeal has quashed the approval of the contentious Trans Mountain pipeline expansion that would nearly triple the flow of oil from the Alberta oil sands to the Pacific Coast
12:12PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Business - Utilities
Ugandan opposition pop star flies abroad for treatment
Ugandan opposition pop star flies abroad for treatment after alleged torture in detention
2:06AM ( 29 minutes ago )
Serena matches her easiest win over Venus in US Open rout
Serena Williams equaled her most lopsided victory ever in 30 professional meetings with her sister, beating Venus 6-1, 6-2 in the third round of the U.S. Open
2:04AM ( 30 minutes ago )
Both sides prepare for marathon confirmation hearing
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and senators are preparing for next week's grueling confirmation hearing
1:38AM ( 56 minutes ago )
US women beat Chile in warmup for World Cup qualifying
Davidson scores as US women beat Chile 3-0 in warmup for World Cup qualifying
1:32AM ( 1 hour ago )
LEADING OFF: Shaved McCutchen joins Yanks, Donaldson moves
LEADING OFF: Shaved McCutchen joins Yanks, lots of players on the move a day after 10 trades
1:27AM ( 1 hour ago )