Coverage: PG&E agrees to $1-billion settlement in wildfire case
PG&E has agreed to pay compensation of $1 billion to several local governments in California for devastating wildfires caused by the utility’s distribution lines.
Jim Christie had the news for Reuters:
PG&E Corp will pay $1 billion as part of its bankruptcy reorganization to more than a dozen local governments in California struck by wildfires in recent years, the company and lawyers for the governments said on Tuesday.
Payments to the local governments will settle claims from lawsuits put on hold by PG&E’s bankruptcy and are separate from the thousands of individual claims stemming from wildfires that the company expects will be filed against it during the bankruptcy period.
PG&E will not be able to make settlement payments until it receives court approval for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization plan.
San Francisco-headquartered PG&E filed for Chapter 11 protection in January anticipating $30 billion in liabilities from wildfires in 2017 and 2018 blamed on its equipment.
Darrell Smith and Tony Bizjak provided the background for The Sacramento Bee:
The settlement deal, part of the utility company’s ongoing bankruptcy process, involved fires caused by PG&E equipment in 2015, 2017 and the Camp Fire in November. PG&E officials on Tuesday issued a statement saying the utility has reached a handful of settlements as part of its financial reorganization plan underway in federal bankruptcy court. The deal must still be approved by the federal bankruptcy judge overseeing PG&E’s finances.
The settlement does not affect the billions of dollars sought in private civil lawsuits filed against the utility by individuals and businesses affected by the wildfires.
Tuesday’s announcement comes after a Cal Fire report in May that found PG&E equipment caused the Camp Fire – the deadliest in California history. The state sent Cal Fire’s findings to Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsay, whose office is reviewing it for possible criminal violations by the utility.
Bloomberg’s David R. Baker and Mark Chediak provided a breakdown of the settlement:
The settlement covers the 2015 Butte Fire, the devastating 2017 Wine Country fires and last year’s Camp Fire, which killed 85 people. More than half of the total settlement amount — $582 million — would pay for Camp Fire damages, with Paradise receiving $270 million and its parks and recreation district getting $47.5 million. Butte County would receive $252 million, while Yuba County would get $12.5 million.
Butte County’s district attorney has been considering criminal charges against the company over the fire, which state investigators blamed on a PG&E power line. The settlement announced Tuesday would have no effect on any criminal case, Fiske said. Nine counties and cities would, together, receive $415 million related to fires that tore across Northern California’s wine country in October of 2017.