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California Passes a $21 Billion Wildfire Victims’ Fund to Protect Utilities From Damage Claims

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PG&E crews repair power lines that were destroyed by the Camp Fire on November 21st, 2018, in Paradise, California.

California Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday signed a bill to protect the state’s utilities from wildfire liability claims. This marks a change that many people knew was coming after the state’s largest utility, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, filed for bankruptcy earlier this year. The utility company, which serves approximately 16 million people, owns equipment that was linked to last November’s Camp Fire, which killed 85 people and caused $7 billion in damage.

The new law provides investor-owned utilities in the state, including PG&E, with access to a $21 billion victims’ compensation fund they can use to pay for damage linked to their equipment in the future. While some of the money in the fund will come from the utilities themselves, an additional $10.5 billion will be paid by the utility companies’ customers through an existing $2.50 surcharge on their bills. The charge was supposed to expire next year, but will now be extended for an additional 15 years.

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