USA: Pacific Gas & Electric pleads guilty to manslaughter over wildfire which destroyed 150,000 acres of land in California

Camp Fire, California, 2018, NASA Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager

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23 March 2020

California power company pleads guilty to manslaughter in Paradise fire

Author: Dani Anguiano, Guardian (UK)

...Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) has agreed to plead guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of unlawfully causing a fire in relation to the blaze sparked on 8 November 2018 by PG&E equipment, according to a securities filing. The fire, which started under a PG&E transmission line in the Sierra Nevada foothills, grew to more than 150,000 acres and destroyed 18,000 buildings...

...Under the agreement, PG&E will pay about $3.5m in fines, and $500,000 to reimburse the Butte county district attorney’s office for costs related to the investigation. The utility has also agreed to pay up to $15m for water access for Butte county residents affected by the loss of the Miocene Canal. Bill Johnson, the PG&E president, described the plea agreement as an “important step in taking responsibility for the past”...

...It’s not the first time PG&E has faced criminal charges. In 2017, PG&E was found guilty of violations of federal pipeline safety regulations in relation to a 2010 gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people in San Bruno, California. PG&E was placed on probation for five years and has a court-imposed monitor, who oversees its safety performance...

...In Butte county, the town of Paradise, and the communities of Magalia and Concow, are still trying to rebuild from the devastating wildfire that forever altered the lives of thousands of people...

..PG&E has said it will pay the town of Paradise and Butte county more than half a billion dollars, and has agreed to settle with the victims of the Camp fire and several other fires for $13.5bn. People who lost loved ones in the Camp fire have been asked to fill out victim impact statements for the court.




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23 March 2020

PG&E to plead guilty to 84 involuntary manslaughter counts over 2018 wildfire

Author: Jonathan Stempel, Reuters (US)

Pacific Gas & Electric has agreed to plead guilty to 84 involuntary manslaughter counts in connection with the 2018 Camp Fire, the most destructive wildfire in California’s history.

The plea by California’s largest utility was announced on Monday by its parent PG&E Corp, three days after the utility accepted tighter oversight and pledged billions of dollars to improve safety and help wildfire victims, under an agreement California Governor Gavin Newsom.

That agreement ended a major roadblock to PG&E’s planned emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, as Newsom devotes his attention to the coronavirus outbreak in his state...

...The fire began on Nov. 8, 2018, and destroyed much of the town of Paradise, which had about 26,000 people, and nearby Concow. More than 18,000 buildings were destroyed. PG&E also pleaded guilty to one count of unlawfully starting a fire...

...Under the agreement, PG&E would pay a maximum $3.5 million fine plus $500,000 in costs, and up to $15 million to provide water to residents after the fire destroyed the utility’s Miocene Canal...

...PG&E also agreed to put itself up for sale if it cannot emerge from Chapter 11 by a state-imposed June 30 deadline, before the next wildfire season begins.

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