USA – SAN FRANCISCO – Pacific Gas and Electric Co. on Friday said it will pay $13.5 billion to settle individual claims arising from a series of deadly blazes, including the Camp Fire that killed 86 people in Butte County and the Ghost Ship Fire in Oakland that killed 36.
The settlement follows two others and clears the way for the embattled utility to exit Chapter 11 bankruptcy by June 30, 2020.
“From the beginning of the Chapter 11 process, getting wildfire victims fairly compensated, especially the individuals, has been our primary goal. We want to help our customers, our neighbors and our friends in those impacted areas recover and rebuild after these tragic wildfires,” said PG&E Corp. CEO and President Bill Johnson in a statement.
“With this important milestone now accomplished,” he continued, “we are focused on emerging from Chapter 11 as the utility of the future that our customers and communities expect and deserve.”
In addition to the Camp and Ghost Ship fires, the settlement resolves all claims arising from Northern California wildfires in 2017, including the Tubbs Fire, and the 2015 Butte Fire. The utility did not admit fault for the Tubbs and Ghost Ship fires as part of the settlement.
The Tort Claimants Committee, which negotiated with the utility on behalf of fire victims, urged anyone eligible for compensation to file a clime by 5 p.m. on Dec. 31 at www.officialfireclaims.com.
“We urge every victim from the wildfires to file proofs of claim, so they don’t forfeit their right to compensation,” Michael Carlson, a member of the committee and a wildfire victim, said in a news release.
Missing the December deadline to file a claim with the bankruptcy court could mean forfeiting the right to compensation, the commission warned.
“Eligible victims who have not yet filed should see this agreement and realize there is in fact money available to help them rebuild their lives,” Kirk Trostle, another commission member and fire victim, said in the news release.
PG&E previously reached settlements with two other major groups of wildfire claim holders – a $1 billion settlement with cities, counties and other public entities, and an $11 billion agreement with insurance companies and other groups that have already paid insurance coverage claims related to Northern California wildfires in 2017 and 2018.
The utility said its next step will be to finalize a reorganization plan, adding that it has more than $12 billion in equity backstop commitments to support the settlement and the plan.
Johnson acknowledged the “many calls for PG&E to change in recent years” and said the utility will work to re-earn the public trust fractured by the multitude of deadly wildfires.
Changes already made include naming Johnson to his position, establishing a $105 million fund to help those displaced by the 2017 wildfires and the Camp Fire, and completing enhanced and accelerated inspections of electrical equipment in high fire-threat areas.
“We will continue to make the needed changes to re-earn the trust and respect of our customers, our stakeholders and the public,” Johnson said. “We recognize we need to deliver safe and reliable energy service every single day — and we’re determined to do just that.”