PG&E customers file lawsuit challenging California wildfire law

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Two Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) customer filed a lawsuit challenging California’s new and complex law addressing how the state pays for damages caused by wildfires sparked by utility companies’ equipment.

Gov. Gavin Newsom strongly supported AB 1054: Wildfire Safety & Accountability Legislation and signed it into law last week. The law authorizes the creation of an Insurance Fund to pay for damages due to utility-caused wildfires.

According to him, the law will help move California “toward a safer, affordable and reliable energy future.” It will also “provide certainty for wildfire victims” and continue the state’s progress toward achieving its clean energy goals.

However, Critics consider the law as a sweetheart deal for PG&E and other utility companies in the state. They specifically rejected provisions of the law they believe unfair to ratepayers and taxpayers.

A provision of law makes it more difficult to prove that utility companies committed negligence when their equipment triggered a wildfire. The law allows utility companies that meet new safety standards to pass on the cost of wildfires to customers by raising rates. Third-parties must present evidence that there is a “serious doubt” that a utility acted reasonably to prevent a wildfire.