Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Electric Utilities are apparently claiming climate change is the real culprit, in response to accusations that their downed power lines triggered recent deadly California wildfires.
Best Shot a Utility Has Against Fire Costs May Be Climate Change
By Mark Chediak
23 February 2018, 11:05 GMT+10
Across America, utility executives are getting grilled this earnings season about the consequences of tax reforms, slackening growth and possible mergers. In California, though, Wall Street just wants to know one thing: Are power companies going to take the heat for deadly wildfires?
California’s two largest utilities, PG&E Corp. and Edison International, have both seen billions of dollars of their market value wiped out by devastating fires that broke out last year. Because of a state law, they could end up on the hook for damages if downed power lines were the cause. Their chief executive officers were prepared for a flood of questions from analysts about the blazes during their earnings calls, and they seized the moment to deliver what was essentially the same line: Climate change is the real problem.
The strategy could help PG&E and Edison fight the California law known as “inverse condemnation” that holds utilities liable for damages if their equipment’s found to have caused a wildfire — even if they followed safety rules. Edison and PG&E both said during their earnings calls that they’re pressing lawmakers and regulators to change the policy.
This isn’t the first time I’ve heard the climate defence. In 2015 Hany el-Missiry, Mayor of the city of Alexandria in Egypt, suggested global warming was responsible for severe Nile flooding which inundated his city. Critics pointed out that that much of the flooding was due to serious drain maintenance failures on el-Missiry’s watch.