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Legislation Aimed At Utilities Responsible For Causing Wildfires

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Citing the Butte Fire as a recent example, when the state legislature reconvenes in January, five lawmakers will introduce a bill aimed at utility companies whose negligence results in wildfires.

The bill would specifically prevent electric utilities found culpable in wildfires from passing the costs for claims not covered by insurance, or any related fines or penalties, onto ratepayers. The bill comes at a time when there is an active investigation into last month’s deadly wildfires in Napa and Sonoma counties.

Of note, the 2015 Butte Fire in Amador and Calaveras counties ignited after a tree fell into a PG&E powerline, and the company was found liable by a judge for property damages caused by the fire. A press release issued about the new bill states that PG&E is laying the groundwork for an application to recover those Butte Fire related costs from customers.

The bill’s lead author, Democrat Jerry Hill, adds, “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.”

The bill’s other authors are Senators Mike McGuire and Scott Wiener, and Assembly members Marc Levine and Jim Wood.

A similar type bill passed the legislature in 2010 banning gas companies from passing along fines and penalties to ratepayers following an explosion from a ruptured pipeline in San Bruno.

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