California considers wildfire insurance fund to avoid repeat of PG&E’s woes

Hoping to prevent another California utility from being driven into bankruptcy by wildfires, state officials may create a new kind of insurance fund to help cover costs from the increasingly devastating disasters.

The idea was proposed last year by a state lawmaker who formally introduced a bill toward that end in January. It could potentially also be taken up by a new commission examining wildfire issues and utility infrastructure after it begins meeting for the first time Monday in Sacramento.

How it would work and who would fund it remain unclear, but the bill envisions electric utilities paying into the fund, while a leading consumer group has suggested shifting the financial burden to the property insurance market.

State Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, who authored the bill last year that created the wildfire commission, said it would be a worthwhile concept for the group to explore. Dodd has also had conversations about the concept with his fellow lawmakers, including Assemblyman Chad Mayes, R-Yucca Valley (San Bernardino County), who introduced insurance fund legislation last month.