The Latest: California wildfire liability bill advances

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - The Latest on California wildfire legislation (all times local):

9 p.m.

California utilities regulators would have the option of letting power companies charge their customers for some of the costs of lawsuits stemming from disastrous 2017 wildfires under legislation that will go before the Assembly and Senate this week.

After weeks of meetings, a legislative conference committee advanced its final proposal to the full Legislature on Tuesday. It would allow ratepayers to be charged even if the utilities were found to be unreasonable in building, maintaining or operating their equipment.

Ratepayer advocates called it a bailout.

The legislation would apply only to wildfires in 2017, which was the deadliest and most expensive fire season on record. Dozens of people were killed, and thousands of homes destroyed.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. has warned that it faces potentially crippling legal liability from those fires.

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12 a.m.

Debate over legislation to prevent California wildfires and allow utilities to pass along costs to ratepayers is going down to the final hours.

A legislative conference committee met late Monday but fell short of an agreement. Lawmakers must finalize the bill Tuesday in order to vote on it ahead of the Legislature's constitutional deadline on Friday.

The panel has debated for weeks whether to shield utilities from liability when their equipment causes wildfires, and how much of those costs can be passed along to their customers.

Lawmakers rejected changing the liability rules for utilities. But they have proposed allowing power companies to sell bonds to pay off wildfire-related debts and pass along the costs as a surcharge on utility bills.

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