California Lawmakers Unveil Far-Reaching Plan to Help Utilities Pay Wildfire Costs, Drawing Criticism From Both Sides

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A firefighting helicopter makes a water drop as the Holy Fire burns near homes in Lake Elsinore on Aug. 9, 2018. (Credit: Mario Tama / Getty Images)

A firefighting helicopter makes a water drop as the Holy Fire burns near homes in Lake Elsinore on Aug. 9, 2018. (Credit: Mario Tama / Getty Images)

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A far-reaching proposal to assist electric utility companies faced with covering billions of dollars in wildfire damage was unveiled Friday to intense debate over whether ratepayers would end up saddled with some of the bill for California’s worst-ever fire year.

With time running out before the California Legislature adjourns for the year, lawmakers released a plan that would allow utilities to use payments from customers to help underwrite the cost of wildfire liability. Some of the biggest wildfires since 2017 — which destroyed thousands of homes — have been caused by downed power lines, and at least one major utility has said it faces insolvency without help in covering the costs.

“Ratepayers can’t be on the hook for everything, but we cannot bankrupt the investor-owned utilities,” state Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) said. “At the end of the day, we’re going to be providing power and somebody’s going to pay for it.”

While lawmakers were generally reserved during the hearing in Sacramento, interest groups sparred over a two-page outline of wildfire prevention and response proposals. Those ideas must be crafted into legislative language over the weekend to meet a key procedural deadline on Tuesday.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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