Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) accepted accountability for its actions that contributed to the cause of the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California.
In November 2018, the victims of the Camp Fire in Butte County filed a lawsuit against PG&E. They alleged that the utility company’s negligence contributed to the cause of the wildfire that almost wiped out the towns of Paradise and Concow. The Camp Fire claimed the lives of dozens of people and destroyed thousands of residential, commercial, and other structures.
PG&E CEO says “our equipment started the fire”
On Tuesday, PG&E CEO Bill Johnson, on behalf of the company, entered a guilty plea for 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of unlawfully starting a fire.
In a prepared statement to the Butte County Superior Court, Mr. Johnson said, “I am here today on behalf of the 23,000 men and women of PG&E, to accept responsibility for the fire here that took so many lives and changed these communities forever.
I have heard the pain and the anguish of victims as they’ve described the loss they continue to endure, and the wounds that can’t be healed. No words from me could ever reduce the magnitude of such devastation or do anything to repair the damage. But I hope that the actions we are taking here today will help bring some measure of peace.
Our equipment started the fire that destroyed the towns of Paradise and Concow and severely burned Magalia and other parts of Butte County. That fire took the lives of 85 people. Thousands lost their homes and businesses, and many others were forced to evacuate under horrific circumstances.
I wish there were some way to take back what happened or take away the pain of those who’ve suffered. But I know there’s not.
What I can say is this: First, PG&E will never forget the Camp Fire and all that it took from this region. We remain deeply, deeply sorry for the terrible devastation we have caused.”
PG&E’s admission of wrongdoing is part of its plea agreement with the Butte County District Attorney. The agreement included a maximum penalty of $3.5 million for its crimes and $500,000 to cover the cost of the investigation.
PG&E’s reorganization plan included $25.5 billion payment to wildfire claimants
Its guilty plea comes as it hoping to receive court approval for its plan to exit bankruptcy. Under the plan, PG&E will pay approximately $25.5 billion to all wildfire claimants related to the 2015 Butte Fire, the 2017 Northern California Wildfires such as the Tubbs Fire, and the 2018 Camp Fire.
Approximately $13.5 billion will be paid to individual victims; $1 billion to certain cities, counties, and other public entities; and $11 billion to insurance companies and other entities.
PG&E filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January last year following allegations that its downed power lines and exploding transformers caused the wildfires in 2017 and 2018. It is the second time the utility company filed for bankruptcy protection.