AB 2083 prohibits utilities from passing on the costs of at-fault legal settlements to ratepayers
- Shawn Kumagai
Sacramento CA – Today, the California legislature passed Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan’s bill that protects ratepayers of electrical companies from their money being used in wildfire settlement agreements by a 68-0 vote. The bill now heads to the Governor’s desk.
AB 2083 prohibits the use of ratepayer funds in criminal or civil settlement agreements where a utility has been deemed negligent in starting a fire. Currently, when an investor-owned utility (IOU) reaches a pre-trial settlement with the State, county, or city, the funds can be drawn from ratepayers, making Californians pay for a company’s negligence.
“When utility companies cause fires, manipulative settlements leave Californians on the hook” said Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan. “In the last five years California suffered an unprecedented number of wildfires caused by utilities. Charging ratepayers for this negligence is unethical and must end.”
AB 2083 closes a loophole in utility liability for sparking fires. In April of this year, the district attorneys of the six counties devastated by the Dixie Fire reached a settlement with PG&E over the company’s responsibility for sparking the blaze. As part of this settlement, PG&E agreed to expedite direct payments for home loss, increased performance commitments, and fiscal penalties. If PG&E had not settled and been convicted for starting the wildfires, all penalties would be paid back from profits. However, since the settlement was made pre-trial, it was eligible to be paid for by ratepayers. Because of the loophole, the company faced no meaningful accountability for the negligence that destroyed 600 homes.
"AB 2083 prohibits utility companies from passing wildfire and other fines and settlements onto their customers when they have failed to comply with their safety obligations. TURN thanks the Legislature for holding multi-billion dollar corporations and their shareholders responsible for paying the full cost of settling any lawsuit or prosecution for their misdeeds." said Mark Toney, Executive Director of The Utility Reform Network.
AB 2083 is now on the governor’s desk.