Nov 28, 2019

PG&E bankruptcy judge sides with fire victims in liability challenge

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.

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California governor blocks PG&E bankruptcy plan

Gov. Gavin Newsom. Photo: Jane Tyska/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom notified Pacific Gas and Electric that he rejected the utility's bankruptcy plan on Friday, The Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: Newsom said PG&E falls "woefully short," lacking critical accounting and safety measures, corporate governance and capital structure requirements in the state's new wildfire liability law. The governor's rejection is a blow for PG&E, as the company hopes to emerge from bankruptcy in the coming months and begin compensating wildfire victims, the Post notes.

Go deeperArrowDec 14, 2019

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

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."

Go deeperArrowDec 7, 2019

PG&E and the rise of "resilience culture"

A PG&E contractor works on utility poles. Photo: Philip Pacheco/AFP via Getty Images

PG&E will start cutting power Wednesday to about 150,000 customers in 18 California counties in the latest wave of preemptive blackouts to curb wildfire risks.

Why you'll hear about this again: The embattled utility will probably need to keep doing this for a long time. But the blackouts are just one force speeding the rise of what Shayle Kann of the VC firm Energy Impact Partners calls "resilience culture."

Go deeperArrowNov 20, 2019