Wildfires raging across California may be contained, but the worst is not over for the state’s residents.
In addition to thousands still homeless in the aftermath of the Camp Fire, consumer electric bills could be increasing.
According to The Wall Street Journal, PG&E, the state’s largest utility, is potentially facing billions of dollars in claims, which in turn could be passed on to consumers with rate increases of as much as 17% on average.
PG&E customers in the state already pay some of the highest electricity prices in the country and the steeper costs could mean more people can’t pay their bills. Between 2013 and 2017, disconnections due to nonpayment reportedly jumped 32%.
PG&E’s prices have already risen at a rate faster than inflation.
It is not yet clear whether a damaged PG&E transmission tower was responsible for the November Camp Fire—the deadliest and most destructive in state history—or whether PG&E is similarly responsible for last year’s Tubbs Fire, the second most destructive fire ever in California.
Nevertheless, the company faces dozens of lawsuits related to fires and the state’s fire investigator found the utility responsible for 17 major fires in 2017 alone. According to state law, PG&E is financially responsible for any damage incurred as a result of fires started by its equipment, even if it wasn’t negligent.