CA lawmakers pass wildfire liability fund for utilities

California

State lawmakers gave the final OK on AB1054 Thursday afternoon. 

At the center of the bill is a multi-billion dollar wildfire liability fund made up of money from investor-owned utility companies and a tax the state already collects. The money will help utilities pay for future wildfires they cause.

Lawmakers finalized the bill last Friday and fast tracked it through both chambers this week in hopes of protecting ratepayers and credit ratings of utilities across the state.

“We are on the verge of a second or third major utility being under the kind of stress that we are attempting to deal with here presently, so I think this is essential,” Fresno assemblyman Jim Patterson said.

A handful of bipartisan lawmakers have spoken out against the bill, some taking issue with how it could restrict public utilities from expanding. Assemblyman Marc Levine Thursday cited a recent ​Wall Street Journal report showing PG&E ignored repairs on aging powerlines.

“It is hard not to see this bill as something as a reward for monstrous behavior,” Marin assemblyman Marc Levine said.

PG&E’s bankruptcy process continues after the company was found responsible for the state’s deadliest and most destructive wildfire in Butte County. The lawmaker representing part of the area.. conflicted, but ultimately voted yes on the fund.

“Do I deal with the devil that I know or the one that I don’t? If it all crashed down, it would be just deserts for a company that has been as negligent as this one,” Yuba City assemblyman James Gallagher said.

PG&E did not take a position on the bill, but in a statement a spokesperson said the company appreciates the work of the legislature and governor on the issue.

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