California Proposes Penalty for Utility Fire Shutoff Failures

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California regulators proposed a number of remedies and penalties for the state’s three investor-owned utilities as the companies failed to protect public safety during 2019 power shutoffs designed to prevent live wires from starting wildfires

PG&E Corp., Edison International’s Southern California Edison and Sempra Energy’s San Diego Gas & Electric wouldn’t be able to collect revenue from customers for electricity not sold during future power shutoff events until they can show improvements in the way they evaluate and report public harm when determining whether to switch off service, according to a proposal from California Public Utilities Commission.

The utilities also would need to take a number of corrective actions including improving communication with customers dependent on electricity for medical reasons, according to the commission. The five-member agency will need to vote on the proposal for it to take effect.

PG&E and the state’s other utilities have also taken to cutting off electricity to customers in high-risk fire areas in advance of high winds after their power lines sparked catastrophic blazes, exposing the companies to billions of dollars in damage claims.

The preemptive blackouts have infuriated customers but do appear to have reduced the number of fires triggered by power lines.

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