A five-member commission in California tasked with studying the costs of the state’s increasingly destructive wildfires has voted to send its recommendations to the governor and state legislature for consideration.
The Commission on Catastrophic Wildfire Cost and Recovery was formed last September to address the impact of the increasingly frequent instances of large wildfires across the state. According to a New York Times report, the commission will pass a broad list of recommendations to lawmakers – including the creation of a fund that will more broadly distribute costs for fire prevention and damage payments among ratepayers, residents of fire-prone areas, insurers, and government agencies.
Other recommendations include altering insurance coverage to encourage homeowners to better protect their property, the creation of a prevention oversight board, expanding subsidies for homeowners’ insurance, and requiring insurance firms to provide customers with fuller disclosures about policy provisions.
The recommendations are expected to be met with skepticism in the legislature, however, where the issue of the liability of utilities firms casts a dark shadow over the debate.
Investigators from the state’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection recently found that power lines owned by beleaguered utilities firm Pacific Gas & Electric caused part of the devastating Northern California Camp Fire last November. The commission, however, recommended that utilities be liable for wildfires only if they are negligent.
“These recommendations are going across the street into the blender, right?” Pedro Nava, a member of the commission, asked. “There will be a certain amount of cherry picking.”