The measure includes a $21 billion fund that ratepayers and utility shareholders would pay into. The money could then be used to pay for damages related to wildfires caused by power company equipment. Companies would only have to reimburse the fund if they’re found to have acted unreasonably to start a fire. The amount of those reimbursements would be capped.
Sen. Jerry Hill ( D-San Mateo) said the bill strikes a good balance between holding utilities accountable, but not putting them at risk if they acted in good faith.
“I think, because we all benefit from the utilities, benefit from those wires that are traveling through our state, then we should collectively shoulder those costs," Hill said.
Supporters maintain the fund will help get fire victims money faster and provide financial stability to utilities.
Alex Jackson with the Natural Resources Defense Council said the bill doesn’t go far enough in protecting customers. But he said the status quo is not acceptable.
“We’re also concerned that, in the absence of the measures contained in this bill today, we will continue to put tremendous pressure on ratepayers to pay for these costs," he said. "I think we need stability. We think this measure brings a modicum of that.”