The Latest: Governor reopens talks on utility liability

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The Latest on California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s wildfire report (all times local):

2 p.m.:

Gov. Gavin Newsom is reopening the conversation on California’s strict law that makes utilities pay for wildfire damage caused by their equipment, regardless of whether they’re found at fault.

It’s a controversial proposal that has failed to gain traction in the past.

Newsom broached the idea Friday as he released a report on wildfires from a “strike team” of experts.

He challenged lawmakers to put wildfire bills on his desk within 90 days.

Newsom and lawmakers are looking for a way to keep the utilities financially stable without leaving wildfire victims and ratepayers on the hook for billions of dollars in damages.

But any plan would also have to avoid being seen as a bailout for Pacific Gas & Electric Corp., which has often been slow to address problems and recently filed for bankruptcy.


1:30 p.m.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom says he’ll do whatever is necessary to hold Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. accountable for manipulating and misleading the state and its customers.

Newsom’s harsh words come as the utility is working its way through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding.

He said Friday the state could try to break up PG&E or reorganize it as a new company as he presented a report calling for changes to how California handles utilities amid growing wildfire threats.

He says the utility has failed to prioritize safety even as its equipment has killed people. He expressed skepticism about whether PG&E’s new chief executive will follow through on safety commitments.


12:30 p.m.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom says he wants the Legislature to pass new wildfire legislation within 90 days.

Newsom made the challenge Friday as he presented a list of ideas to help California’s utilities afloat while keeping power costs low.

His report comes after Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. filed for bankruptcy as it faces potentially billions of dollars in liability costs.

Newsom says he wants lawmakers to have a serious discussion about changing the liability standard that makes utilities pay for damage caused by their equipment even if they aren’t found negligent.

Lawmakers considered a similar proposal last year. But Newsom says the process wasn’t deliberative enough.

Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins says her priorities are protecting customers and fire victims and ensuring Californians have reliable electric service.


11:10 a.m.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has released a report aimed at addressing a host of wildfire problems.

The 58-page report explores how California can keep its investor-owned utilities financially stable while ensuring customers get safe and affordable power.

The recommendations include the creation of a state-run power purchasing entity, changing the standards that make utilities pay for wildfire damages and discouraging new housing in areas at high-risk of wildfire.

But the report largely fails to take concrete positions on which actions the state should pursue.

California has suffered two of its deadliest and most destructive wildfire seasons in recent years and lawmakers have struggled with how to distribute the costs.


12:01 a.m.

Gov. Gavin Newsom is preparing to release a report aimed at addressing a host of wildfire-related problems.

That includes how to maintain a safe, affordable electricity supply in the wake of Pacific Gas & Electric Corp.’s bankruptcy and the growing cost of wildfires.

The report planned for release Friday is the work of a “strike team” Newsom created in his February State of the State address.

California has suffered two of its deadliest and most destructive wildfire seasons in recent years and lawmakers have struggled with how to distribute the costs.

Newsom has hired the law and investment firms O’Melveny and Myers and Guggenheim Securities to provide expertise. Contracts obtained through the California Public Records Office show the state is paying the firms a combined $6 million over six months.

Categories: California News