governor signs far reaching energy and wildfire bill
Major new legislation aimed at helping energy utilities grapple with increased wildfire risks sailed through the legislature this week and secured Gov. Newsom’s signature today. AB1054 establishes a $21 billion wildfire relief fund that utilities can tap into to cover wildfire damages that exceed their insurance coverage, and also establishes an annual safety certification for energy utilities. Half of the fund will be capitalized through and extension of existing fees and the other half would come from utilities’ bottom lines. The bill passed a deadline set by Wall Street rating agencies who threatened to downgrade California energy utilities due to multiple factors, including the state’s existing rules that hold energy utilities liable for fire damages caused even by properly-maintained equipment, increased risks posed by climate change, and ongoing development in fire-prone areas.