With PG&E Implicated in Wildfire Disaster, a Battle Over Its Future

However stakeholders are maybe most concentrated on discussions in Sacramento, where PG&E spent more than $500,000 in the first quarter of 2018 to lobby for changes to state law they say could save the business from insolvency.

"There is growing evidence that these wildfires may become more harmful in future years and we should adapt," PG&E CEO Geisha Williams told financiers on a current call. "It is essential to have policies in location to offer a sustainable monetary future for the state's energy companies."

Williams' remarks become part of a bigger offensive the business released in current months to argue that drought and climate modification have actually produced a "new regular" in California and that state law has to alter to reflect that reality.Williams and other

executives argue the discussion isn't almost in 2015's fires, however the long-term survival of investor-owned energy companies. They alert that as climate change makes catastrophes more severe, state law must adapt, too-- or PG&E could deal with bankruptcy.Critics call this a cynical tactic to shift expenses&away from PG&E's Wall Street shareholders and to ratepayers, insurer and survivors of disasters&like in 2015's blazes-- even when the energy's own carelessness caused the damage.Historically, state regulators have actually forced utilities to spend for damage triggered by carelessness out of their profits-- not by handing down those costs to ratepayers. That took place last year in a Southern California case. And it happened after the 2010 San Bruno explosion, when a PG&E gas pipeline exploded, killing eight people." If the utility business is accountable through carelessness, through cannot follow the law-- if they&cut corners on safety and didn't do what we currently paid them to do, then it's the PG&E stock owners who are responsible for paying, not people having a hard time to make ends meet and paying their month-to-month costs,"stated Mark Toney, executive director of the consumer advocacy group TURN.TURN has been working against legislation, SB 1088, that they and other critics state would let PG&E investors off

the hook when the energy's negligence causes damage-- and leave ratepayers with the expense."Exactly what that expense would do is need PG&E to send a security strategy-- let's state to cut down 10,000 trees,"Toney stated."And as long as they reduced 10,000 trees, then even if there was carelessness-- they would be off the hook.

You and I would have to pay even when PG&E is irresponsible."But SB 1088's author, state Sen. Expense Dodd, D-Napa, protects his expense. He represents areas that suffered devastating losses in the fires and says the costs is simply an effort to avoid future catastrophes by ensuring that both utilities and state regulators are being proactive about security. "We have to have someone keeping an eye out for us to make sure that number one, they do what they state they do, and if they don't that there are fines-- huge, huge fines,"Dodd said.But, Dodd said, if utilities do follow the safety strategies," then they can utilize that their plan was considered total in their rate-making process. "PG&E supports SB 1088, which was written by labor unions connected with the energy. PG&E lobbyists and executives have likewise

been arguing for an even bigger change to a state law understood as"inverted condemnation."That legal principle basically states that given that investor-owned utilities like PG&E get access to public and personal property for their equipment, if that devices causes property damage, PG&E needs to spend for it-- even when they have actually n't done anything negligent.PG & E executives think that if they can not pass those expenses on to ratepayers, the company's long-lasting financial future remains in doubt-- specifically if climate change continues to make wildfires and other disasters more and more devastating."This suggests that if the energy's equipment is discovered to have been a considerable cause of the damage in an event like a wildfire-- even if the utility has actually followed recognized inspection and safety guidelines-- the utility may be responsible for property damages and attorneys charges connected with that event,"PG&E's Williams stated throughout the recent call. "So in essence this is a stringent liability approach that presumes a commensurate cost healing for investor-owned utilities. That just isn't really true. We highly believe this is not the right approach for our clients or our investors." Lawyer John Fiske is representing many of the cities and counties taking legal action against PG&E over the North Bay fires. He sees PG&E's efforts to change inverted condemnation as a negative tactic and noted that the energy was founded guilty of numerous felonies in the San Bruno explosion."What's fascinating about this case is that, despite the storied history of PG&E as a felon, as being convicted of criminal neglect, as having fines imposed

versus it ... in spite of all that, PG&E's reaction in the Capitol is to remove the constitutional home rights of the very fire victims who have actually lost everything, "he said."There is a disconnect brought on by hubris."So far, nobody has actually presented legislation to alter inverse

condemnation, although Gov. Jerry Brown does seem open to the idea. Critics like Fiske are worried that Brown and legislators could aim to deal with the issue at the end of the legislative session in August.One thing everyone can concur on? Nobody wants to see PG&E go bankrupt and have all these complicated concerns about liability be chosen by a personal bankruptcy judge.