Gov Proposes Spreading Anti-Fire Costs Across State, As Door Opens For Undergrounding

Written by on April 15, 2019

You may have heard California Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday lay the groundwork for statewide spending to reduce wildfires.

Governor went to the state’s emergency command post near Sacramento to begin to lay the groundwork for what promises to be expensive and difficult decisions for the state legislature and him to make this spring and summer.

Newsom is proposing spending money … lots of money … to harden this the state electrical grid and protect it against sparking wildfires.

This comes after about 2 billion dollars worth of real estate in Malibu .. Ventura County and the Santa Barbara area was incinerated in four major wildfires in the last three years.

139 residents have been killed.

2.8 million acres have burned since 2017.

Power lines owned by the state’s three large investor-owned utilities have sparked 2,000 fires in the past four years.

Newsom on Friday repeated that this is not a matter only for Pacific Gas and Electric customers …. in Northern California.

Malibu and the rest of Southern California are also in danger of their electric company going bankrupt… according to the governor.


“If you’re in Southern California saying ‘wow thank God we’re not a part of this conversation,’ you are directly a part in this conversation.

“Because you got Southern California Edison that is in exactly the same boat.

“If they get into junk bond status, that impacts their liquidity, impacts their access to capital.

“As a consequence for that, you pay more for your electricity.

“Their borrowing costs go up, insurance rates potentially go up, property values as a consequence go down.

“You can’t get insurance in these wild-urban land interfaces???

“That means the value of your property diminishes

“Your property tax revenue diminishes, your ability to invest in preschool and after-school programs diminishes.

“These things are all connected.

“This is a serious issue.”

Newsom is edging towards advocating a change in California’s strict liability standard … called inverse condemnation …  which holds utilities liable for wildfires started by their equipment regardless of negligence.

It is the legal premise that utilities have the power of eminent domain to take private property for rights of way and are therefore strictly liable for for all damage to that property. That doctrine makes it cheaper to buy fire insurance in places like Malibu … and it is  legal enshrined in the state constitution.

Newsom says that’s not fair to the electric companies … and they may go bankrupt as a result. Nad if that happens … look for electric rates to double …and look for California to miss on its greenhouse gas targets.

The governor on Friday repeated that the current status quo cannot continue.


“No decision is a decision.

“That is catastrophic. Neglect is not just bankruptcy protection for these IOUs, it’s liquidation, it is huge increases in electrical costs.

“There was an article this morning … yesterday?? … that shows a potential doubling of your electric bills if we just walk away from this.

“That is a decision I am not willing to make.

California governor Gavin Newsom.

The audio is courtesy of KGO television in San Francisco.

As we’ve reported … The state is finally opening the door to putting power lines underground as a fire prevention method.

And all this may come together in a way for Malibu to bury its overhead wires.

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