In the midst of a string of catastrophic wildfires, the California Senate sent a bill to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk Friday that makes sweeping changes to forest management and wildfire prevention while addressing the role utility companies play in the devastation.
Senate Bill 901 aims to strike a balance between ratepayers and utilities, using a new set of rules to determine how much of the cost of repaying wildfire losses utilities can pass on to consumers. When not at fault, utilities will be allowed to finance the debt, thereby reducing how much is passed on to the end consumer and preventing forced bankruptcy. But the bill also doubles penalties for utilities found to be at fault for causing fires.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire determined in June that downed power lines and other maintenance issues on equipment belonging to investor-owned utility Pacific Gas & Electric caused over a dozen such fires. [Read more…]