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Streaks of lights from vehicles drive along highway 24 during an Oct. 10 PG&E power shutoff in Oakland, Calif. Photo: Ray Chavez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

PG&E lost a challenge Wednesday to a California law holding it liable for billions of dollars in wildfire damage connected to its equipment, Bloomberg first reported.

Why it matters: The ruling in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in San Francisco by Judge Dennis Montali is a victory for victims of the state's 2017 and 2018 wildfires, who are hoping to be awarded damages for their affected properties in the utility’s bankruptcy.

Driving the news: In a January Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection filing, the embattled power giant estimated it was on the hook for $30 billion dollars in liability costs for the fires.

What's new: PG&E said it shouldn’t be subject to the "inverse condemnation" legal doctrine that "holds utilities strictly liable for covering the costs of blazes linked to their equipment — regardless of whether they were negligent," Bloomberg notes, because investors own the firm, not taxpayers. But the judge sided with the fire victims.

  • The utility and fire victims are holding discussions on a chapter 11 plan that could pay them about $13.5 billion, but they're "still preparing to litigate over whether PG&E is legally liable and how much it will have to pay," the Wall Street Journal.
  • The company was also defeated in its "attempts to get aid" from Sacramento and California lawmakers "refused PG&E’s attempts to change how the doctrine is applied, which might have reduced the amount of damages it must pay," the WSJ noted.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
41 mins ago - Economy & Business

Stock buybacks are kicking back into high gear

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

It was expected that with the economy improving and company balance sheets already loaded with cash, U.S. firms would slow down their debt issuance in 2021 after setting records in 2020. But just the opposite has happened.

Why it matters: Companies generally issue bonds for one of two reasons — because they're worried about not having enough cash to cover their expenses or because they want to lever up and make risky bets.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
1 hour ago - Energy & Environment

Japan vows deeper emissions cuts ahead of White House summit

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images

Japan on Thursday said it will seek to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 46% below 2013 levels by 2030, per the AP and other outlets.

Why it matters: The country is the world's fifth-largest largest carbon dioxide emitter and a major consumer of coal, oil and natural gas.

2 hours ago - Technology

The global race to regulate AI

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Regulators in Europe and Washington are racing to figure out how to govern business' use of artificial intelligence while companies push to deploy the technology.

Driving the news: On Wednesday, the EU revealed a detailed proposal on how AI should be regulated, banning some uses outright and defining which uses of AI are deemed "high-risk."