Published: Sun, December 08, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

After California Wildfires, Bankrupted Utility Company Reaches $13.5 Billion Settlement With Victims

After California Wildfires, Bankrupted Utility Company Reaches $13.5 Billion Settlement With Victims

The company has been criticized for the role its equipment has played in the outbreak of numerous fires in California, among them the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in state history.

The settlement would allow PG & E to come out of bankruptcy protection before a government deadline set for next June, the company said in a statement.

The bankrupt California utility Pacific Gas & Electric said on Friday it had reached a $13.5bn agreement to resolve individual claims relating to the 2017 and 2018 wildfires and the 2015 Butte fire. The settlement announced on Friday will need United States bankruptcy court approval. The company filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January claiming that it had potential liabilities of $30 billion stemming from these wildfires.

The settlement also covers the 2016 Ghost Ship Fire in Oakland, where 36 people perished when a warehouse exploded in flames.

"I think it's a fantastic result", said attorney Rich Bridgford of Bridgford, Gleason & Artinian, adding it will not only compensate thousands of devastated fire victims but also require PG&E to put billions into overhauling its infrastructure to prevent future disasters.

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The Official Committee of Tort Claimants formed after PG&E's bankruptcy filing to advocate for and defend the collective interests of all tort claimants in the bankruptcy case, including those who were injured or suffered property or business damages, or lost their loved ones.

They likewise concluded that PG&E energy traces had sparked a separate flurry of wildfires that swept California's wine nation north of San Francisco Bay in 2017.

"We appreciate all the hard work by many stakeholders that went into reaching this agreement".

PG&E announced the settlement in a statement on Friday night.

PG&E has previously reached settlements with two other major groups of wildfire claimants, including a 1 billion-dollar settlement with cities, counties and other public entities, and an 11 billion-dollar deal with insurance companies and other entities for the wildfires in 2017 and 2018. "PG&E's most important responsibility must always be public and employee safety, and we remain focused on helping affected communities recover and rebuild, resolving wildfire victims' claims fairly and expeditiously, and further reducing wildfire risks".

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