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Private Utilities Face Wildfire Mitigation Plan Hurdles

18 Sep

California’s three large investor-owned utilities reported progress implementing their mandated SB 901 wildfire mitigation plans, but the shortage of tree trimmers and composite poles are among the challenges hampering their efforts. San Diego Gas & Electric’s Jonathan Woldemariam, director of wildfire mitigation and vegetation management, said Sept. 17 that the work has been “a humbling […]

PG&E & Insurance Firms Make $11B Deal

16 Sep

Pacific Gas & Electric reached a tentative $11 billion settlement with dozens of insurance companies Sept. 13. The agreement filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of Northern California is with the Ad Hoc Subrogation Group, which represents insurance firms and their claims for damage caused by wildfires sparked by PG&E equipment. It covers nearly half […]

PG&E Pitches $18B Reorganization Scheme

11 Sep

In order to exit bankruptcy court, Pacific Gas & Electric Sept. 9 proposed a $17.9 billion reorganization plan, which would limit wildfire claim payouts. The reorganization plan includes up to $8.4 billion for wildfire victims. Another $8.5 billion is included for insurance company claims. There’s also $1 billion for claims from cities and other public […]

Shorts

19 Aug

San Diego Gas & Electric is folding an independent marketing arm set up to lobby against community choice aggregation in its service territory. Accordingly, the utility asked the California Public Utilities Commission late last month to revoke its plan for complying with a state policy that prevents utilities from using ratepayer funding to lobby regarding […]

The Buzz

3 Jul

Expected legislation incorporating the Governor’s wish list for a catastrophic wildfire recovery fund to bail out private utilities facing big liabilities is to get its first airing July 5. The Senate Energy, Utilities & Communications Committee approves bills shifting the cost of supply shortages to energy providers that fall short  and increasing the efficiency of […]

Bill Proposes Utility Wildfire Recovery Fund

3 Jul

New amendments to AB 1054 this week would create a multi-billion dollar wildfire liability fund backed principally by ratepayer money, as pushed by the governor. The measure by Assembly Utilities & Energy Committee Chair Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) proposes a $10.5 billion revolving liquidity fund to cover private utility liabilities stemming from fires their equipment may […]

CPUC Weighs Penalizing PG&E for 2017 Wildfires

27 Jun

The California Public Utilities Commission announced the evening of June 27 that it initiated a proceeding to consider fining Pacific Gas & Electric for 15 of the 17 devastating blazes its equipment sparked in October 2017. “PG&E’s violations during the 2017 fire siege are extensive and disturbing, and go to basic requirements, such as the […]

The Buzz

14 Jun

A House Energy panel zeros in on federal legislation and tactics to resolve the troubling issue of long-term storage of radioactive waste from nuclear power plants. Lawmakers also grapple with how to consolidate onsite spent fuel in 121 communities, including in Southern California and Sacramento. The day before, another House Energy & Commerce subcommittee tells […]

U.S. Senate Energy Committee Aims to Curb Wildfires

14 Jun

To coincide with the start of this year’s wildfire season, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) held a June 13 hearing to assess wildfire threats, including from grasslands and excess fuels in forests in Alaska, California and across the U.S. Murkowski, Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee chair, warned of the “proliferation of disease and insect […]

Undercurrents

11 Jun

With temperatures set to soar last weekend, Pacific Gas & Electric shut off power to 21,000 customers in Butte and Yuba counties for safety reasons at about 9:00 p.m. on June 8. In addition to safety shutoffs in the Sierra Foothills, PG&E turned off power to about 1,700 customers in Napa, Solano and Yolo Counties […]

S&P Pressures Sen. Wildfire Panel on Strict Liability

11 Jun

The Senate Select Committee on the Governor’s 2019 Report: Wildfires & Climate Change was warned that the credit rating agencies would further downgrade the investor-owned utilities if the state’s strict liability standard applied to utility equipment-sparked wildfires remained on the books. Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Los Angeles) waived a letter from Standard & Poor’s during a […]

The Buzz

30 May

This week is all about measures to reduce the impacts of utility-sparked wildfires in California. In the midst of all the smoke, CPUC president Mike Picker says he’ll soon retire. Earlier, he and other state energy regulators approve the investor-owned utilities’ 2019 plans to stem wildfire risks from their equipment. But, the CPUC notes, this is […]

CPUC President Headed Out the Door

30 May

California Public Utilities Commission President Mike Picker announced he will be retiring as early as the beginning of July of this year. The often rumpled Picker quipped that initially he thought he’d postpone leaving the commission until he was forced to buy a new business suit. Instead, Picker said he would leave the agency following […]

CPUC Signs Off on New Power Shutoff Rules

30 May

State energy regulators this week adopted a decision aimed at reducing the impacts of private utilities stopping electricity flows across power lines during risky wildfire conditions. Approved May 30, the decision includes protocols to improve utilities’ reporting and notification of when it decides to de-energize power lines to reduce the risk of sparking wildfires ahead […]

Utility Wildfire Plans Approved With Some Caveats

30 May

The California Public Utilities Commission May 30 approved investor-owned utilities’ 2019 plans to stem wildfire risk under SB 901, as expected. “Approval of these plans is just a first step,” said Commissioner Cliff Rechtschaffen at the CPUC’s meeting this week. “We are learning as we go along,” added Commission President Mike Picker. The plans, said […]

Wildfire Panel Calls for Redoing Utility Legal & Financial Rules

30 May

The legal standard for finding utilities at fault for sparking wildfires, as well as for determining how much of their wildfire expenses can be recovered from ratepayers, are in serious need of overhaul, according to a draft report by the Commission on Catastrophic Wildfire Cost & Recovery. The executive summary of the report, released May […]

Bankruptcy Watch: PG&E Wildfire Housing Fund Okayed

22 May

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court in San Francisco May 22 approved a $105 million Pacific Gas & Electric assistance fund to support those displaced by the Northern California wildfires in 2017 and the 2018 Camp Fire. The fund is being authorized by the court after CalFire found earlier this month that the utility caused the Camp […]

PG&E Found Liable for 2018 Camp Fire

15 May

After the stock market closed May 15, CalFire quietly announced that Pacific Gas & Electric was responsible for the state’s most destructive fire: the 2018 Camp Fire in Butte County. “After a very meticulous and thorough investigation, CalFire has determined that the Camp Fire was caused by electrical transmission lines owned and operated by Pacific […]

Undercurrents: Utilities Warn of Power Shutoffs

6 May

The state’s three big investor-owned power utilities are launching an advertising campaign to let Californians know they’ll be routinely shutting off electrical service in fire-prone areas during wind storms. As part of their public information campaign, the utilities are urging the state’s 11 million residents who live in elevated fire risk areas to prepare emergency […]

The Buzz

2 May

PG&E’s first quarter earnings this year are far from rosy, but not as grim as expected. Earnings take an expected hit from wildfire, bankruptcy and safety expenses, which PG&E hopes to more than recoup from energy regulators and ultimately ratepayers. Southern California Edison’s parent earnings rise but that doesn’t stop its CEO from whining that […]