California lawmakers are being accused of bailing out utility companies responsible for the wildfires
California legislators have been mulling around the idea of moving forward laws, regulations, and ordinances that help protect some of the biggest utility companies in the state – some of which have been found responsible for causing more than a dozen wildfires across the state in just the last year alone.
This obviously has humanitarians up in arms, feeling as though the state government leaders have sold out the people of California to shore up some of their bigger campaign donors. Things are getting ugly.
A major coalition of fire victims, business owners, and local city and county leaders are coming together to protest the legislation that would offer utilities a break on their insurance that protects them against issues like wildfires.
PG & E, one of the largest utility companies in California, was found to have been responsible for at least 16 of the wildfires in Northern California last year alone – some of which had fatalities.
The new legislation would cut down dramatically on the amount of financial exposure that utility companies have should they be found responsible for causing wildfires in the state of California. PG & E alone is facing more than $15 billion in financial exposure from the wildfires that they have been found responsible in 2017, and if this new legislation goes into effect, they would be able to avoid much of those penalties.
Utility companies have been moving forward to try and upgrade their power lines and replace faulty equipment known to cause wildfires across the state of California. Many of the biggest companies are working to find ways to prevent wildfires from happening in the first place, committing hundreds of millions of dollars pooled together to push back against these devastating humanitarian issues.
Last year, the Edison International utility company in California was sued by the city of Ventura, claiming that it was the negligence of this utility company that led to the Thomas wildfires. These fires ended up claiming more than 280,000 acres – burning 440 mi.² of wilderness – and producing untold amounts of devastation throughout Southern California.
Edison International has refused to comment about the cause of the fires, pending the litigation that is right now ongoing, but they aren’t the only utility company that has been sued by cities, counties, and municipalities throughout California over the last 10 years for causing wildfires.
It will be interesting to see if the “bailout” for the utility companies ends up coming to fruition. Many of the most vocal critics behind this legislation are arguing that the laws have clearly been written only for the 2017 hires – which would give PG & E the most to gain if these new laws go into effect.
Local leaders say that climate change has left California variable, and that the humanitarian threat that these fires are capable of is nothing short of catastrophic. Something has to change in California if these kinds of fires are going to be prevented in the future. This legislation likely will not do that.