California Gov. Gavin Newsom is pressing lawmakers on a wildfire fund that may be financed through bonds to help utilities pay for the catastrophic blazes their power lines keep igniting, according to people familiar with the proposal.
Newsom is proposing a so-called liquidity fund that could be seeded by at least $10 billion in Department of Water Resources bonds, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. The administration may also ask utilities to contribute about $7.5 billion in equity, the people said.
The bonds would be backed by a charge that utility customers have been paying since the 2000-2001 energy crisis, they said. The fund is part of a larger plan to address the mounting costs of intensifying wildfires that may be presented as soon as this week and is subject to change, the people said.
Newsom has been pressing for lawmakers to act since utility giant PG&E Corp. went bankrupt in January to deal with an estimated $30 billion in wildfire liabilities — stemming largely from the November Camp Fire that was ignited by one of its power lines. The blaze, the state’s deadliest, killed 85 people and destroyed the Northern California town of Paradise. The governor has called on the legislature to pass a bill by July 12 as ratings companies threaten to downgrade Edison International’s Southern California Edison and Sempra Energy’s San Diego Gas & Electric.