Bay Area News Group
By George Avalos
State legislation designed to curb efforts by PG&E and other utility behemoths to saddle consumers with costs triggered by a company’s negligence has been approved by the Legislature and sent to Gov. Jerry Brown.
Senate Bill 819, authored by state Sen. Jerry Hill, would prohibit utilities from passing costs that result from the company’s negligence along to ratepayers in the form of higher monthly gas and electricity bills.
In recent months, PG&E has embarked on a crusade, led by Chief Executive Officer Geisha Williams, to pressure politicians in Sacramento to craft legislative packages that would ease the company’s financial exposure to lethal disasters such as the wildfires that torched Wine Country in October, as well as to pave a smoother path to shovel the financial costs onto ratepayers.
A sampling of what some lawmakers said in January, a few months after the North Bay infernos:
“You don’t burn someone’s house down and then raise their rates to help pay for the damage you caused,” Sen. Scott Wiener, of San Francisco and San Mateo counties, said.
“Ratepayers should never be stuck with the bill if negligence is determined,” Assemblyman Marc Levine, of Marin and Sonoma counties, said.
“Thousands of North Bay residents have lost their homes and businesses and many escaped these devastating fires with nothing but the clothes on their backs and their family’s safety,” Sen. Mike McGuire, whose district includes parts of Sonoma and Marin counties, as well as the North Coast, said. “There is absolutely no way residents who are suffering from this massive tragedy should ever pay for a corporation’s potential negligence.”