PG&E in California Wants to Securitize Some Profits to Cover Wildfire Costs

By and | July 1, 2019

PG&E Corp. is lobbying for legislation that would allow the bankrupt California utility giant to securitize some of its profits to pay for past wildfire liabilities, people familiar with the matter said.

PG&E was pressing California Governor Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers over the weekend to add the securitization to a sweeping bill introduced last week that would help utilities deal with the mounting damages from wildfires that their power lines keep igniting, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter isn’t public.

The financing may prove crucial to PG&E’s exit from bankruptcy. As part of a $31 billion restructuring plan, the company is proposing a $14 billion fund to pay out victims of a series of deadly blazes that its power lines have sparked over the past two years. The utility is lobbying just as the Newsom administration is pressing lawmakers to pass the bill by a July 12 deadline — before the rest of California’s utilities possibly see their credit downgraded to junk.

“We remain focused on resolving wildfire victims’ claims fairly and expeditiously, further reducing wildfire risks and continuing to deliver safe and reliable energy to our customers,” PG&E said in a statement.

PG&E filed for bankruptcy in January to deal with an estimated $30 billion in claims from wildfires tied to its equipment. The San Francisco-based company is proposing to carve out a portion of its state-approved return on equity for multiple years to help finance the $14 billion wildfire victims fund.

The legislation introduced last week would, meanwhile, help utilities pay for future wildfire damages. It would also make it easier for utilities to recover costs from future fires if they obtain a safety certification.


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