As PG&E is potentially facing a torrent of litigation in connection with the Northern California wildfires this month, in addition to the costs of repairing or replacing infrastructure and power lines that were damaged in the fires, four California legislators are proposing legislation that would prevent PG&E from passing any of those costs on to rate payers.
As the Chronicle reports, Democratic state senators Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) and Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) along with Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael), announced that they planned to introduce the legislation in January. The bill would bar public utilities from passing on to consumers any costs associated with their own negligence.
As it stands, PG&E's San Diego counterpart, SDG&E, has been trying to pass on to its customers $379 million of the $2.4 billion it has been made to pay in settlements in connection with wildfires there in 2007, including the Witch Fire, which burned 1650 structures and killed two people. And PG&E has also been potentially trying to have lawsuit costs from the 2015 Butte Fire get passed on to customers as well.
The causes of the multiple wildfires that broke out on October 8 and 9 have yet to be determined by investigators.
"This practice is an outrage,” says Sen. Hill in a press release. “Victims of devastating fires and other customers should not be forced to pay for the mistakes made by utilities. It’s time to stop allowing utilities to push the burden of their negligence onto the backs of customers."
PG&E spokesperson Keith Stephens issued a statement not responding directly to the proposed legislation, but saying, "To be clear, the investigations into these fires are still ongoing and we are cooperating with the (California Public Utilities Commission) and Cal Fire’s reviews. While we all want answers, we must address these climate-driven natural disasters and come together to find solutions that protect our infrastructure and keep our communities and customers safe."