Written by Associated Press
(AP) — Utility giant Pacific Gas & Electric on Thursday reported a nearly $1 billion loss for the second quarter of 2018 due to clean-up, repair and legal costs related to wildfires that raged across Northern California last fall.
The report came as California lawmakers consider a proposal by Gov. Jerry Brown to ease utilities’ financial liability for future fires.
PG&E, however, is still hoping to erase some of its costs for last year’s fires.
Utility President Geisha Williams called Brown’s proposal “insufficient.”
“It doesn’t go far enough,” she said on a call with investment analysts, according to the Sacramento Bee.
The utility is staring down at least $2.5 billion in legal claims stemming from more than a dozen fires that blazed through California’s wine country and elsewhere last fall. Its liability could be as high as $10 billion.
State fire officials still haven’t determined what caused the most destructive fire in Santa Rosa. The blaze destroyed more than 5,000 buildings.
California holds utilities almost entirely liable for damage caused by their equipment, even if they follow safety regulations. It’s one of the nation’s strictest laws, and Brown is urging lawmakers to give more flexibility to judges to decide how much utilities should pay.
It’s just one item on the agenda of a legislative conference committee that began meeting Wednesday to discuss wildfire safety and prevention.
Last year marked California’s most destructive wildfire season on record, and Brown warns that fires will only get worse due to climate change.
Firefighters are currently battling blazes up and down the state. Yosemite National Park has been closed to visitors due to a nearby fire, an entire town east of Los Angeles has been evacuated, and state park employees are trying to save historic Gold Rush-era artifacts in a Northern California museum threatened by fire.
PG&E says it’s operating daily aerial protection patrols, installing new weather stations to improve awareness of fire danger conditions and creating more fire defense zones around power lines.
The utility has told more than 570,000 customers in “extreme-fire threat areas” that they may lose power when fire danger is high.