Dec 6, 2019 - Energy & Environment

PG&E strikes $13.5 billion deal with victims of California wildfires

PG&E in California

Photo: Justin Sullivan / Staff/Getty Images

Pacific Gas & Electric and attorneys for the victims of 2017 and 2018 California wildfires that killed dozens of people and ravaged homes and businesses, agreed on Friday to a $13.5 billion settlement, the New York Times reports.

The impact per the Times: "The agreement could help tens of thousands of residents rebuild while helping to resolve the utility’s bankruptcy."

The state of play: Some of the funds will be directed to help pay claims of federal and state agencies, as well as victims' attorneys.

  • Per the Times, "a settlement would significantly increase the likelihood that PG&E will emerge from bankruptcy before a crucial deadline in June," so the company can draw from a wildfire fund that the state established earlier this year.

Background: The utility filed for bankruptcy in January, facing an estimated $30 billion in claims.

  • In June, PG&E agreed to a $1 billion settlement with a group of public entities for its involvement in the deadly wildfires dating back to 2015.
  • The California Public Utilities Commission launched an investigation into PG&E in late October over a series of power shutoffs, which affected millions, aiming to prevent the spread of wildfires during high-wind periods and dry spells.
  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in November that his administration was putting together a plan to take over PG&E should it fail to resolve its ongoing bankruptcy proceedings.
  • Nearly two dozen California mayors and county leaders have pressed state regulators to help transform the embattled, bankrupt power giant into a customer-owned cooperative.

What they're saying:

"From the beginning of the Chapter 11 process, getting wildfire victims fairly compensated, especially the individuals, has been our primary goal ... With this important milestone now accomplished, we are focused on emerging from Chapter 11 as the utility of the future that our customers and communities expect and deserve."
— Bill Johnson, president and CEO, PG&E Corporation in a statement

What to watch: Friday's settlement requires approval from U.S. Bankruptcy Court. A hearing is set for Dec. 20, the Times notes.

Go deeper:

Go deeper