California governor signs legislation to bail out utility that sparked deadly fires

Dec. 2018 Fire ruins Malibu (AP)By MARC ROME

In October, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that the effects of climate change are already happening, making natural events like wildfires more intense. A month later, the Camp Fire, fueled by Diablo winds and drought conditions, incinerated Paradise, Calif., killing 88 people with nearly 800 unaccounted for. More than 16,000 structures, mostly homes, were destroyed, forcing at least 52,000 to evacuate and leaving tens of thousands of people homeless throughout the 150,000 acre burn zone in Butte County. It is the deadliest fire in the state’s history, and was nearly as destructive as the previous 10 record setting California fires combined.

As the fires raged in Paradise, an area covering hundreds of miles was an ominous and forbidding landscape full of smoke darkened skies that affected millions with hazardous air or nearly two weeks. Air Quality Indexes measured from upwards of 400 in Sacramento and 238 in San Francisco. Smoke plumes were detected as far away as Philadelphia.

Factoring in the Woolsey fire in southern California, which left three dead and upwards of 2000 homes and structures destroyed or damaged, nearly 150,000 people have been displaced, leading to a humanitarian/housing crisis in a state where affordable housing is already extremely difficult to find for working and poor people. Ed Mayer, executive director of Butte County’s housing agency, said, “Big picture, we have 6000, possibly 7000 households who have been displaced and who realistically don’t stand a chance of finding housing again in Butte County. I don’t even know if these households can be absorbed in California.”

Lawsuits have been filed by victims against PG&E for their suspected responsibility in starting the Camp Fire. The AP reported, “PG&E told state regulators that it experienced a problem on a transmission line in the area of the fire just before the blaze erupted. In its filing Thursday [Nov. 8] with the state Public Utilities Commission, it said it had detected an outage on an electrical transmission line. It said a subsequent aerial inspection detected damage to a transmission tower on the line.” PG&E’s practice of cutting labor costs (which boosts profits) led to poor maintenance of its electrical grid, and, according to state fire investigators, caused 17 of 21 wildfires in 2017, including the 2017 Tubbs Fire in Sonoma County, which killed 24 and destroyed more than 5300 homes.

A series of lawsuits have also been filed against Southern California Edison alleging that the Woolsey fire began due to poor maintenance of their equipment near the flashpoint. To shield three California utility monopolies—Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas and Electric—from financial ruin, Governor Brown recently signed SB 901 to pass off the utilities’ liabilities to rate payers for fires attributed to equipment owned by these billion-dollar corporations. PG&E alone is facing $15 billion in liabilities for the 2017 fires, and SB901 allows them to issue bonds paid for by increasing fees for ratepayers.

Their liabilities may be as high as $30 billion if it’s determined that the utility is responsible for the Camp Fire, which could lead to PG&E’s collapse without another state government bailout. SB 901 was proposed by Brown and passed the State Assembly and Senate with virtually no resistance from Democratic Party legislators (nine Democrats opposed it in total). There is no comparable bailout legislation for the victims of the most destructive fire in U.S. history in a century [. . .]

via California governor signs legislation to bail out utility that sparked deadly fires

2 thoughts on “California governor signs legislation to bail out utility that sparked deadly fires

  1. Dr. Bramhall, I may sound insensitive but it is time that white folks realize that they are up shit creek without a paddle. Their problem is that they don’t like to be in the same boat with Black folks. That’s a fact that’s just not to be endured. They think that just because those in power look like them, all is going to work itself out and that is just not going to happen. There are too many instances where white folks are being handed their ass on a platter and told to suck it up by ‘their’ government because that is what Jerry Brown has told those in California. As far as the government is concerned, corporations MUST receive taxpayer dollars while citizens can just go eat dirt. Has Governor Brown signed any legislation aimed at bailing out those who are sitting somewhere at a campground because their homes are gone? Hell no and he won’t. Just as the banks that foreclosed on people’s homes were bailed out and people were put out of their homes, there was no bailout for them.

    People lost their lives in this most recent wildfire and that is okay as far as the government is concerned because what just cannot happen is that the utilities companies go belly up. They need to go belly up because as long as they can get away with causing massive destruction and know that bailouts will commence, they will never get their act together. And I have no idea when people will also realize that the Democrats are no better than their so-called counterparts.

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  2. Well, like I always say, Shelby, you have a way with words. This is exactly what is happening. I watched an old video yesterday of one of my heroes in the research community. He maintained fascism and genocide are an inevitable part of post industrial capitalism – when automation makes human labor expendable. From his perspective, racism and genocide are just a way for the ruling class to decide who to do away with first. In my view the way African Americans are treated in the US is a slow form of genocide. Now, as you point out, they have started in on the poor whites. I sure wish I knew what to do to wake people up.

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