Lawmakers introduced a bill Tuesday night that would extend a fee on utility bills to create $3 billion for firefighting efforts. The fee was originally developed last year to set aside $21 billion to cover damages from utility-caused wildfires.
While the fee is just half a cent, it could add up to as much as $20,000 for some food processors each year, argues the Western Agricultural Processors Association.
Adding this cost to California businesses, “who already pay the highest electricity rates in the country, is simply unacceptable,” said WAPA CEO Roger Isom.
He pointed out that the current fires were caused by lightning strikes and not utilities. He also took issue with more than $200 million going toward restoration projects, along with other funding that aims to reduce climate emissions rather than manage wildfires. Similar provisions appeared in several climate bond proposals earlier this year, which have now been suspended due to the state's economic situation.
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Buried within the measure is a provision to allocate $50 million to restoring the capacity of the Friant-Kern Canal, which was lost due to subsidence.
The provision would require at least a 50% cost share for the funding to be approved. Another $50 million would go toward wetlands restoration projects to meet the needs of a settlement agreement following a lawsuit brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council against the state.
This comes just days after the Senate Appropriations Committee crippled a bill proposing $400 million to fix the canal.