California lawmakers move forward with wildfire liability bill


SACRAMENTO (KRON) — It was standing room only in the Senate hearing room for AB 1054 Monday.

“Utilities are the backbone of our economy and the necessary background of our daily lives,” said Asm. Chris Holden (D-Pasadena).

At the heart of the bill is a $21 billion fund to help utility companies pay for their future wildfire costs when they are to blame. 

The money would come from utility companies and from a fee Californians already pay from the energy crisis decades ago.

Dozens lined up in support including union reps for electric workers and energy groups.

Wildfire victims are divided on the issue.

“There are many people still people struggling financially, even if they have insurance. I hope you don’t forget us,” said Pam Fuller, who survived the Camp Fire. 

“There is less oversight and less accountability in this bill than current state,” said Tubbs Fire victim Will Abrams. 

Supporters say the bill will make sure victims get paid and protect ratepayers from skyrocketing costs.

Critics are concerned and how far that protection goes isn’t completely clear.

“I can’t support it without explicit proof that our victims are going to see significantly enhanced payments and being fair to those victims, and taking into consideration the ratepayers,” said State Sen. Jeff Stone (R-La Quinta).

Stone was one of two senators who rejected the bill in committee.

As it heads to the senate floor, it will need supermajority support. 

The governor is hoping to have this on his desk by fFriday.

“Make no mistake, this is not a utility company bailout, this is a ratepayer bailout,” Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa).

Official representatives for PG&E were not at today’s hearing but a spokesman tells KRON4 the company has not yet taken a position on the bill.

The bill cleared the Senate floor on Monday evening and will be heard in the Assembly later this week.

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