PG&E Reaches $13.5 Billion Wildfire Settlement With Victims

The Camp Fire rages through Paradise, Calif., on Nov. 8, 2018. (AP file photo/Noah Berger)

(CN) – Utility giant Pacific Gas & Electric announced Friday a $13.5 billion settlement with individual victims of multiple Northern California wildfires that killed several people and destroyed thousands of homes.

The settlement covers claims from the 2017 wildfires, as well as the 2018 Camp Fire, the most devastating wildfire in California history. The California Public Utilities Commission released a report last week that pointed to a 100-year-old PG&E transmission tower as the culprit of the Camp Fire.

Not all of the settlement will go to victims, as some of it will also go to lawyers for fees and costs incurred by government agencies that fought the multiple fires. PG&E filed for bankruptcy in January after revealing that the company was looking at approximately $30 billion from wildfire claims.

The settlement also covers claims from the Butte Fire in 2015 and the Ghost Ship fire in 2016, which killed 36 people. Wildfire victims have until Dec. 31 to file claims.

The company has undergone talks with elected officials during its bankruptcy proceedings on how to best move forward, including the possibility of setting up a cooperative or making it a public utility.

“There have been many calls for PG&E to change in recent years,” PG&E CEO and President Bill Johnson said in a statement. “PG&E’s leadership team has heard those calls for change, and we realize we need to do even more to be a different company now and in the future.”

“We want to help our customers, our neighbors and our friends in those impacted areas recover and rebuild after these tragic wildfires,” he added.

The company has faced criticism for failing to update its aging equipment and prioritize safety. PG&E angered Californians earlier this year when it shut off power to millions during high winds and dry conditions to prevent more wildfires.

The settlement agreement still requires approval from a U.S. Bankruptcy Court where the next court hearing is scheduled for Dec. 20. If approved, it would help move the company out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy before a June deadline that could cut it off from a state wildfire fund.

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