The California-based utility company Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) pled guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter after reaching a deal with California prosecutors over its equipment's role in starting a deadly 2018 wildfire, local media reported Tuesday.
PG&E is now one of a few companies to ever plead guilty to manslaughter charges as state prosecutors sought to hold them accountable for their role in the deadliest wildfire in California history.
The fire killed 85 people but prosecutors were not able to find enough evidence to establish if any single one of the deaths was the company’s fault. The company also pled guilty to one felony count of unlawfully starting a fire as part of an agreement with Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey.
The sentencing is likely to take place later this week and the company has agreed to pay a $3.48 million penalty and $500,000 for the cost of the investigation.
“No words from me can ever reduce the magnitude of that devastation or do anything to repair the damage, but I sincerely hope that the actions we’re taking today will help bring some measure of peace,” PG&E CEO Bill JohnsonWilliam (Bill) Leslie JohnsonMaintain navigable waters rule to make homes more affordable Six ways to visualize a divided America Former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel jumps into Senate race MORE told the Superior Court in California’s Butte County, according to KCRA Sacramento.
Johnson, who was hired about six months after the fire happened, will step down next month.
The indictment served earlier this year names the company, not a specific individual. Ramsey told the Wall Street Journal that the negligence went back decades, making it difficult to serve charges to specific individuals.
PG&E is simultaneously embroiled in bankruptcy proceedings after California's forestry bureau found it liable for starting the fire, which led to the destruction of Paradise, Calif., and drove tens of thousands of residents from their homes.
The company is set to pay $25.5 billion in settlements, including $13.5 billion earmarked for wildfire victims. A federal judge will make a final decision on June 30.