Energy & Environment

PG&E announces $13.5B settlement for Northern California wildfires

Utility company Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) announced Friday a $13.5 billion settlement for a string of deadly wildfires that killed dozens of people and destroyed thousands of homes in Northern California.

The settlement covers claims stemming from several wildfires, including the 2015 Butte Fire, 2016 Ghost Ship Fire, 2017 Tubbs and Northern California Fires, and the 2018 Camp Fire. 

"From the beginning of the Chapter 11 process, getting wildfire victims fairly compensated, especially the individuals, has been our primary goal," CEO and President of PG&E Corporation Bill Johnson said in a statement. "We want to help our customers, our neighbors and our friends in those impacted areas recover and rebuild after these tragic wildfires.

"We will continue to make the needed changes to re-earn the trust and respect of our customers, our stakeholders and the public," he continued. "We recognize we need to deliver safe and reliable energy service every single day - and we're determined to do just that."

The funds from the settlement will help pay claims of federal and state agencies and bills for victims' attorneys, among other things. 

PG&E has been under intense scrutiny after malfunctions with its power lines were found to be the cause of several wildfires. The company declared bankruptcy in January as it faced more than $30 billion in claims, and Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.) threatened in November to have the state take over the firm if it fails to resolve its financial issues.

The latest settlement is the third PG&E has reached in its Chapter 11 case; the company brokered a $1 billion settlement with a group of public entities for its involvement in deadly wildfires dating back to 2015 and an $11 billion agreement with insurance companies and other entities that have already paid insurance coverage for claims relating to the 2017 and 2018 wildfires.

Friday's settlement still requires approval from U.S. Bankruptcy Court. A hearing is set for Dec. 20.

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