A California bill introduced by Assembly Member Quirk in 2016 to promote electric cars, AB-33, has been modified to create and sell new bonds. The proceeds of the bonds would go toward covering Pacific Gas & Electric’s legal liability after being found responsible for starting the October 2017 Northern California wildfires. Wildfire lawsuit settlements could add up to billions of dollars.
Under inverse condemnation, PG&E can be found liable for starting the wildfires even in cases where they were not also found to have broken the law. PG&E is currently being investigated in approximately half the fires for potential criminal acts, but not in all cases. Previously PG&E was found guilty of multiple felonies in connection with the explosion of and cover-up of a residential neighborhood.
If approved, the bonds would prevent PG&E from having to take the entire hit to themselves and their shareholders. PG&E already announced a $2.5 billion charge last quarter to address upcoming expected wildfire lawsuit settlements.
Should plaintiffs win in trial or secure a wildfire settlement, these bonds are designed to be paid for by the customers of PG&E. IF PG&E supplies your power in San Francisco, Oakland, or another California city, you may be paying monthly in the future to cover these wildfire settlements.
The new language in the bill appears to only allow PG&E to avoid paying for liabilities, Southern California Edison which is also facing lawsuits from the Thomas Fire is not included.