Dec 7, 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."

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

PG&E settles with California regulators as fire victims deal approved

Fire burns near power lines in Montecito, California, Dec. 16, 2017. Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) reached a proposed $1.7 billion settlement with state regulators and had a revised $13.5 billion agreement for people impacted by California's fatal 2017 and 2018 wildfires approved Tuesday, AP reports.

Why it matters: The steps mark significant progress for the utility as it seeks to emerge from bankruptcy in the coming months, after Gov. Gavin Newsom rejected its financial rehabilitation plan Friday for falling "woefully short."

Go deeperArrowDec 18, 2019

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 electricity shut-offs drive Californians' interest in solar power

Photo: Andrew Aitchison/InPictures via Getty Images

The solar industry came out with new data yesterday showing record residential installations in the third quarter, edging out prior highs in 2016.

The intrigue: One part of the quarterly report that caught my eye confirms that PG&E's power shut-offs are driving interest in solar-plus-battery systems, though the real effect won't be known for a while.

Go deeperArrowDec 13, 2019