The Latest: California Legislature approve wildfires measure
Sep. 01, 2018
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The Latest on a California measure allowing utilities to pass along the cost of wildfire lawsuits to their customers (all times local):
The California Legislature has approved a measure allowing higher electricity bills to pay off lawsuits stemming from last year's deadly wildfires.
The measure sent to Gov. Jerry Brown Friday would also require utilities to harden their infrastructure against wildfires and make it easier to conduct prescribed burns or logging to prevent the spread of fires.
Consumer advocates and large energy users have blasted the legislation as a bailout for Pacific Gas & Electric Co., which expects to pay billions of dollars due to fires started by the company's equipment in Northern California last October.
Lawmakers fear that could make it hard for PG&E to borrow money or drive the company to bankruptcy. They say the legislation is necessary to prevent even higher spikes in utility bills.
Utility workers would get protections for their jobs, salaries, benefits and pensions as part of a measure allowing California power companies to raise electric bills to cover the cost of lawsuits from last year's deadly wildfires.
The job protections benefit politically connected unions that joined with utility management in lobbying aggressively for the ability to pass along the cost of 2017 wildfire lawsuits to customers, even if the utility behaved negligently.
The measure is scheduled for votes in the Senate and Assembly Friday night following months of contentious negotiations.
Large power users and ratepayer advocates have blasted the measure. They call it a bailout of Pacific Gas & Electric company. PG&E has been blamed for some of the 2017 wildfires that tore through Northern California.