SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The wildfires that devastated Northern California may finally be out, but Californians may soon face a new threat: higher gas and electric bills.
“Oh we’ll be paying more for our PG&E bills,” said state Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo).
Hill’s warning comes after a report from Cal Fire on Friday tied PG&E to a dozen blazes in October.
“Climate change or any new normal doesn’t ignite a fire. It takes a spark. And when you have a utility that has been negligent, that has broken the law, that causes the spark,” said Hill.
Hill is pushing Senate Bill 819, which would protect consumers from paying for an investor-owned utility company’s negligence.
But he says another Senate bill seeks to do the exact opposite: get ratepayers, not shareholders, to foot the bill for the cost of California wildfires.
“My bill essentially hardens the grid,” said state Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Sonoma County).
Dodd says his legislation (SB 1099) requires PG&E and other utility giants to upgrade their equipment. and update the state’s utility regulator, with spending estimates. But critics say it gives those companies a blank check.
“Look it, I’m a ratepayer- I don’t want to pay any more money. But if I know I may have to go through another event like this I might pay a dollar more a month,” said Dodd.
“We should not be held responsible for negligence,” said Hill.
Hill is the only senator who voted against his colleague’s bill. Now he’s trying to convince lawmakers that it would make more sense to charge shareholders, for a utility giant’s costly mistakes.
PG&E has not yet responded to our request for comment on this story.
The company did release a statement in response to Cal Fire’s findings saying in part: “We continue to believe our overall programs met our state’s high standards.”