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California needs a lot of money to fight fires. But how much?

Taryn Luna, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

In a landmark 2017 ruling, the PUC determined that the company failed to prudently manage and operate its system and denied the request, which created mass uncertainty in the electricity market.

In an era of increasingly destructive wildfires, utilities, stock analysts, investors and ratings agencies have argued that California electrical utilities are vulnerable to unpredictable financial liability.

The state's two largest electrical utilities, PG&E and Edison, lobbied the Legislature for changes in 2018. A law approved last year allowed the utilities to shift some wildfire costs onto ratepayers, but Wall Street criticized it for not going far enough.

Less than one month after the law took effect, PG&E filed for bankruptcy, citing some $30 billion in potential debt from wildfire damage.

"It's going to be another big-ticket item that we're going to have to get into in the coming weeks," said Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins after the Legislature approved the state budget last week. "We're going to get very serious about this discussion. Obviously, it's something we're all very concerned about."


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