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Wildfires and the aftermath


Last updated 7/15/2019 at 10:05am

Fifteen of California’s 20 most destructive wildfires have occurred since 2000, with 10 occuring since 2015. Economic costs to homeowners, utilities, ratepayers, insurers and local governments resulting from the destruction of thousands of homes makes preventing fires and dealing with their costly aftermath top-priority issues in Sacramento.

Proposals discussed include creating a Power Company Safety and Accountability standard requiring safety investments by utility companies, mandating accountability for their wildfire safety record and protecting ratepayers from sole financial responsibility for utility-caused fires. A new Wildfire Safety Division within the CPUC could be created to oversee and enforce safety compliance by investor-owned utilities to develop wildfire safety performance metrics, improvements to wildfire mitigation plans and other safety initiatives.

Discussions also center around creating a catastrophic wildfire victims fund to assist homeowners and insurers by streamlining fire victim recovery. Instead of insurance companies filing lawsuits against utilities to recoup their losses, a process that takes years, claims could be filed directly with the fund. Concern over homeowner insurance being non-renewed is also a big issue.

The cost of inaction will be a significant hit to ratepayers as utility companies will risk being downgraded in their credit rating, meaning it will cost more to obtain capital for system operations, which adds a significant risk premium to attract capital. It is estimated that this risk premium would add about $14.40/month to the average residential customer’s monthly bill.

To address this is a proposal to continue the current charge, currently at half a cent per kWh of $2.50 per month to the average residential customer’s bill, and to protect the utility companies from being downgraded in investment, saving potentially millions for ratepayers.

These proposals are in progress with final details to be developed as soon as next week. As your representative from a high fire risk area, I have been actively engaged.

Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron, R-Escondido, represents the 75th Assembly District in the California Legislature, which includes the communities of Bonsall, Escondido, Fallbrook, Hidden Meadows, Pala, Palomar Mountain, Pauma Valley, Rainbow, San Marcos, Temecula, Valley Center and Vista.


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