Wildfires pressure California utilities despite new law

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California utilities again are facing severe financial pressures from the possibility their equipment sparked catastrophic wildfires.

A bill to help them in such situations was signed in September by Gov. Jerry Brown and gave utilities some relief for wildfire liability beginning next year. It also sought to ensure they wouldn’t go bankrupt from the 2017 fire season by allowing them to bill customers for costs.

But there was a gap in the law: Nothing changed for 2018, and this year already has supplanted last year as the most destructive in California’s recorded history.

Authorities have not determined a cause for two blazes burning now. But the utilities — Pacific Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison — reported irregularities with their equipment near the time and place both fires ignited.