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PG&E works on a power line destroyed by a fire in Santa Rosa, CA. Image: Jim Urquhart/Reuters
On Friday, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill that would change the way the state pays for fire damages caused by utilities. As Reuters explained, Credit rating agency, S&P previously warned it could lower its ratings on the state’s two other major investor-owned power providers, Edison International’s Southern California Edison and Sempra Energy’s San Diego Gas & Electric, absent “concrete actions” by policymakers to reduce credit risks posed by wildfires to the state’s utilities.
To gain access to this insurance plan, utility companies must first pay to get in – $7.5 billion for large investor own utilities and less than that for regional electric companies – while also investing $5 billion in safety upgrades and participating in a new annual safety certification process.
What This Means for PG&E: Reuters explained that, “San Francisco-based PG&E will need to pay the most among power providers to support the fund. To access the fund, PG&E will have to submit or have a bankruptcy reorganization plan approved by the end of June 2020 and will need to compensate victims of wildfires in 2017 and 2018 caused by its equipment.” You might recall the utility’s involvement in two of the deadliest wildfires, along with the ensuing legal battle.
Why This Matters: Many utility customers see this as a way of them footing the bill for reckless behavior on the part of PG&E despite the fact that this isn’t a bailout as the state won’t take over the company’s power lines and directly pay the company money for its assets. They worry that they are paying for a solution for PG&E and critics of the bill say that it doesn’t do enough to prevent wildfire prevention. However, CA Governor Gavin Newson assures that more legislative solutions for wildfires are coming in the very near future. Either way, this underscores the impact that climate change will have on our legal and political systems going forward and that we’re going to have to rethink how a lot of them function in an effort to limit wildfire damage and deal with reality.
Why This Matters: The investments in electric vehicles are clearly market-driven, but it cannot hurt to have Presidential frontrunner Joe Biden on the campaign trail talking about using the federal purchasing power to transition the federal fleet to electric vehicles.
Later this evening President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden will convene for the final presidential debate before the general election on November 3rd. While the first debate had an unexpected question on climate change from moderator Chris Wallace, tonight’s moderator NBC News’ Kristen Welker pre-selected climate change as a debate topic outright. […]
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