By Lillian Boyd, Dana Point Times
After a wildfire in Paradise, CA killed 86 people, some state leaders seek to hold Pacific Gas & Electric financially accountable for potentially neglecting faulty equipment that could have sparked the blaze.
The New York Times reported on Saturday, Jan. 5 that as the Paradise wildfires consumed the town in November, a dozen state legislators and top power company officials were at an annual retreat at the Fairmont Kea Lani resort on Maui. The article reported that over the course of four days, officials discussed wildfires and how much responsibility the utilities deserve for the devastation, “if any.”
In a follow-up article published on Monday, Jan. 8, New York Times reporter Ivan Penn named State Assemblyman Bill Brough as one of the legislators at the retreat.
Brough represents the 73rd Assembly District and is embarking on his third term. He served on the Dana Point City Council from 2010 to 2014. The 73rd District covers much of southern Orange County, including Dana Point, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano,
Brough says the retreat was a week of briefings on issues such as utilities, forest management, the state of prisons and education.
“I’m for protecting the ratepayers and promoting affordability,” Brough said. “The (California Public Utilities Commission) unilaterally impacts my constituents. With $8 billion dollars a year in state mandates, that’s a 25 percent cost increase to ratepayers. I have constituents in Ladera Ranch paying $1,100 in utility bills, partly because they’re somehow considered to be in a coastal zone. That’s not right.”
As for preventing wildfires in the future, Brough says forests need to be managed better.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra told a federal judge that PG&E could face murder charges if investigators determine power equipment was operated recklessly. However, the brief from the attorney general’s office was advisory and criminal charges would most likely be filed by county district attorneys, not the state.