Readers React: Assessing the fire liability of utility companies

To the editor: California’s utilities support wildfire prevention programs and policies that help ensure public safety.

Unfortunately, Michael Hiltzik’s recent column misses the mark. Because utilities can and will be sued every time they are involved in a fire, they have every incentive to prevent all fires. Utilities are also subject to substantial regulatory penalties, potential criminal liability, and the risk that they cannot pass along wildfire costs to its customers if they acted imprudently.

The current system that Hiltzik touts does not does not incentivize enhanced safety — but it does impair financial health for the state’s public and private utilities. The rules also can set back efforts for reducing harmful air emissions to meet California’s air quality and climate goals.

What none of us should ignore is this: As our region experiences record-breaking heat and fires burn statewide, now is the time to address wildfire prevention, suppression and liability in California.

R.O. Nichols


The writer is president of Southern California Edison.

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