Utility-Caused Catastrophes

For-profit, investor-owned utilities (IOUs) that are responsible for causing fires and other disasters should not be bailed out.  Victims of utility-caused disasters, such as the 2017 Napa and Sonoma fires and 2018 Camp Fire, should be fully compensated for their losses by the utilities, but not at the expense of ratepayers.  

Cases

PG&E Violations for 2017 Napa-Sonoma-Mendocino Fires and 2018 Camp Fire: CPUC proceeding R.19-06-015 is supposed to be an investigation into PG&E violations of the law that resulted in 19 wildfire in 2017 and 2018 that led to over 100 deaths, destruction of over 30,000 homes and business, and burning of 100,000’s of acres.  Wild Tree seeks to ensure that the fines assessed for violations of laws intended to prevent utility-caused disasters and otherwise protect public health are substantial enough to have a deterrent effect against prioritization of profits over safety as well as punitively addressing loss of life, homes, and communities; degradation of human and environmental health; and harm to our climate.    Unfortunately, there has been insufficient investigation, a rush to close the proceeding in just a few months, and a unconscionable proposed settlement.

  • Wild Tree Opposition to Proposed Settlement – The CPUC Safety Enforcement Division staff has, shockingly, proposed that the CPUC approve a settlement with PG&E for dozens of violations regarding the fires that were ignited by PG&E in 2017 and 2018 that includes NO FINE! Even worse, CPUC staff is trying to convince the public that this is the biggest “financial obligation” ever imposed in regards to a utility-caused wildfire.  This could not be farther from the truth.  Under the proposed settlement, PG&E would agree to not pursue ratepayer recovery for some costs it has already incurred.  But, the majority of this is for costs incurred as a result of PG&E starting the fires and would not, therefore, be recoverable anyhow.  Even though it admits that PG&E destroyed evidence regarding the ignition of the Tubbs Fire and there is strong evidence that PG&E equipment was responsible for starting the Tubbs Fire, CPUC staff has not alleged that PG&E violated the law in any way in regards to Tubbs.  Wild Tree has formally opposed the settlement working together with PG&E customer Thomas Del Monte. 

2017 Fires Bailout: CPUC proceeding R.19-01-006 regarding ratepayer recovery for 2017 fires under SB 901.  Wild Tree is fighting a bailout for PG&E for the fires it caused in 2017 and a bailout for SCE for the Thomas Fire.  Wild Tree supported the CPUC decision that PG&E decision to file bankruptcy made it ineligible for a bailout but opposed the CPUC’s leaving the door open for an SCE bailout.  PG&E has filed an application for reahearing of the CPUC’s decision which Wild Tree has opposed.

  • Wild Tree Comments on the Proposed Decision  – The CPCU should have deferred approval of SB 901 stress test methodology to a full administrative hearing opened if and when SCE files an application for recovery of costs for the 2017 Fire it caused.   Nonetheless, Wild Tree supported a decision that was limited to prohibiting PG&E from a SB 901 bailout, not expanding bailouts beyond 2017, and only allowing a bailout following an application for cost recovery. 
  • Wild Tree Opposition to Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s Application for Rehearing – Wild Tree has argued that the Commission’s decision to prohibit PG&E from being bailed out by the ratepayer for the 2017 fires under SB 901 because it filed for bankruptcy should be upheld. 

Bailout for Future Fires: CPUC proceeding R.19-07-017 implementation of AB 1054. Wild Tree advocated that a $15+ billion rate increase to fund the pre-bailout wildfire insurance fund is unconstitutional, unreasonable, unjust, and unsafe.  Unfortunately, the CPUC approved future bailouts as part of AB 1054 “wildfire insurance fund.” 

  • Wild Tree Comments on the Proposed Decision – Approval of the proposed decision to fund the Wildfire Fund would be an abuse of discretion and an unconstitutional taking of ratepayer property without due process of law.
  • Wild Tree Comments on the Scoped Issues – Commission must deny increase in rates to fund Wildfire Fund because it cannot guaranteed due process rights of ratepayers and because the Fund will disincentive the investor owned utilities to prioritize safety over profit.
  • Wild Tree Reply Comments on the Scoped Issues – Evidentiary hearings are required pursuant to the right to notice and meaningful opportunity to be heard.