Util­ity union ben­e­fits from Cal­i­for­nia wild­fire leg­is­la­tion

Ripon Bulletin - - Local/state -

SACRA­MENTO . (AP) — Util­ity workers would get pro­tec­tions for their jobs, salaries, ben­e­fits and pen­sions as part of a mea­sure al­low­ing Cal­i­for­nia power com­pa­nies to raise elec­tric bills to cover the cost of law­suits from last year’s deadly wild­fires.

The job pro­tec­tions ben­e­fit po­lit­i­cally con­nected unions that joined with util­ity man­age­ment in lob­by­ing ag­gres­sively for the abil­ity to pass along the cost of 2017 wild­fire law­suits to cus­tomers, even if the util­ity be­haved neg­li­gently.

The mea­sure, which also in­cludes ef­forts to im­prove for­est health and pre­vent wild­fires, is sched­uled for votes in the Se­nate and As­sem­bly tonight fol­low­ing months of con­tentious ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Large power users and ratepayer ad­vo­cates have blasted the mea­sure, call­ing it a bailout of Pa­cific Gas & Elec­tric com­pany, which has been blamed for some of the 2017 wild­fires that tore through North­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

“Ev­ery­body’s get­ting pro­tected, but cus­tomers,” said Michael Boc­cadoro, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Agri­cul­tural En­ergy Con­sumers As­so­ci­a­tion. “Util­ity share­hold­ers are pro­tected. Trial at­tor­neys are pro­tected. In­sur­ers are pro­tected. Vic­tims are pro­tected. La­bor’s pro­tected. Un­for­tu­nately, they for­got to pro­tect cus­tomers.”

Un­der the leg­is­la­tion, if an in­vestor-owned util­ity changes own­er­ship or files for bankruptcy, it would be pro­hib­ited from shed­ding workers or cut­ting pay for six months. For two years af­ter that, it could only lay off workers af­ter con­duct­ing a study show­ing the Pub­lic Util­i­ties Com­mis­sion that there would be “no re­duc­tion” in the abil­ity to re­spond to emer­gen­cies or re­spond to mu­tual aid re­quests from other util­i­ties.

LEG­IS­LA­TION

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