Utility giant PG&E files for bankruptcy after wildfires

Utility giant PG&E files for bankruptcy after wildfires
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PG&E Corp., the nation’s largest electric utility, filed for bankruptcy Tuesday in an attempt to protect itself from the liabilities it faces for its role in recent California wildfires.

The filing was expected since PG&E was obligated earlier this year to warn California that it planned to file under Chapter 11 of the United States code.

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PG&E listed assets of $71.39 billion and liabilities of $51.69 billion in a filing in the Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California.

The company, whose main unit is Pacific Gas and Electric Co., faces around $30 billion in liabilities for numerous fires that its equipment like transformers and electrical cables caused since 2017, including the deadly Camp Fire and others. Under California law, even if the utility properly maintained its equipment, it can be held liable for fires the equipment causes.

Just last week, state investigators absolved PG&E of responsibility for the major Tubbs Fire last year, a disaster the company had been suspected of causing. Nonetheless, it went forward with bankruptcy.

PG&E said it plans to keep all of its service going during the bankruptcy process, and hopes that the process would lead to a fair and equitable resolution of its liabilities.

“Throughout this process, we are fully committed to enhancing our wildfire safety efforts, as well as helping restoration and rebuilding efforts across the communities impacted by the devastating Northern California wildfires,” John Simon, who took over as interim CEO this month, said in a statement.

“We also intend to work together with our customers, employees and other stakeholders to create a more sustainable foundation for the delivery of safe, reliable and affordable service in the years ahead.”

PG&E is asking the bankruptcy court to it allow it to access $5.5 billion in debtor-in-possession financing to allow it to carry out essential maintenance and operations. It recently said it has just $1.5 billion available.