California Governor Directs Legislature To Find Ways To Pay For Wildfires Without Breaking Utilities

Apr 15, 2019

The Holy Fire burns in the hills above Lake Elsinore in April 2018
Credit Mary Fran McCluskey for KVCR

Governor Gavin Newsom says he wants the Legislature to find a way to pay for California's devastating wildfires without bankrupting utilities.  Capital Public Radio's Chris Nichols says Newsom gave them until July to find a solution.

Newsom spoke after a team of experts delivered a report on how to reduce the state’s catastrophic fires … and some options for how to pay for them.

Newsom2: “This is the issue that requires most of our time and attention in the next few weeks, working with the Legislature and key stakeholders. And you know what, this is tough stuff.” (:11)

The options include creating a new wildfire fund and easing some of the laws that hold utilities strictly liable when their equipment starts a fire.

The governor said everyone in the state must share the cost burden, though he did not say exactly how that should be done.  

Newsom3: “One thing I can predict, if we don’t again try to manifest the ideals in this report, that future is not very bright. (:09)

Newsom emphasized that utilities like Pacific Gas and Electric must be held accountable for their role in sparking fires. But he added the state can’t afford a scenario where those utilities go out of business and electric rates spike statewide. In Sacramento, I’m Chris Nichols.