Should utility companies pay for wildfire damage when their equipment is to blame?

California

California Governor Gavin Newsom wants state lawmakers to reconsider law that makes utility companies pay for damages when their equipment causes a wildfire.

It’s one of many recommendations released Friday from his wildfire and energy strike team.

“If anyone is wondering if climate change is real, come to California,” Newsom remarked.

He wants to move quickly on solutions to California’s costly and complex issues intertwining wildfires, climate change and the energy grid.

Presenting recommendations from his wildfire and utility strike team, the governor is exploring strategies for how to distribute the cost of catastrophic wildfires, those include a liquidity-only fund, a catastrophic wildfire fund, and the most controversial: changing the state law that requires utility companies to pay for wildfire damages when their equipment is to blame.

“I purposely am not including my personal opinions because I actually want to accomplish something and I believe it’s incumbent on me to get create a condition to get something done whereas assert a political frame, my point being, I put out these principles to engage in a public process,” Newsom said.

The governor says action he’s ready to take includes reforming the California Public Utilities Commission and holding Pacific Gas & Electric Co. accountable.

The utility filed for bankruptcy earlier this year and has said its equipment likely caused the state’s deadliest and most destructive wildfire last November.

Newsom says if PG&E doesn’t take the issue seriously, all options are on the table for the utility, including possible government takeover.

“I’m not here to beat them up, but the state has suffered because of their neglect, their misdirection. Lives have been lost,” Newsom said.

He is hoping lawmakers use these recommendations to “get him something big” before they go on summer recess July 12.

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