Pacific Gas and Electric on Monday agreed to pay $ 55 million in fines and costs to settle civil lawsuits brought by prosecutors in six counties in Northern California.
The agreement allows PG & E to avoid criminal charges for last year’s Dixie fire – the second largest in California history – and the 2019 Kincaid fire. The settlement involves paying millions of dollars to local agencies, schools and government agencies, and will fund an independent security monitor for the life of a five-year civil sentence.
Prosecutors say they have taken civil action against PG & E to get more benefits than would allow the perpetrators to be tried. The maximum criminal fine in the Dixie fire – which burned 963,000 acres and destroyed more than 1,300 buildings across Butt, Plumas, Lassen, Shasta and Tehama counties – was 9 329,417.
“This settlement avoids both bankruptcy and unreasonable delays for Dixie Fire homeowners and tenants – especially those without insurance,” said Michael L. Ramsay, Butt County District Attorney, said in a statement
Investigators have determined that a tree near the Cresta Dam, about 100 miles north of Sacramento, came in contact with the PG & E’s power line, triggering a fire.
The Kincaid fire burned about 78,000 acres in Sonoma County, injuring four people and destroying 374 buildings. In December, state regulators fined PG&E $ 125 million for the fire.
“Although criminal charges have been dismissed, the level of punishment and supervision imposed by this judgment is far greater than the criminal court can bring against the corporation,” said Jill Ravich, sonoma county district attorney, Kincaid, the site of the fire.
Ms Ravicz said the decision to reach a settlement also failed to pass legislation to increase fines for corporations found to be in violation of the law by state legislators. He added that the state’s attorney general, Rob Bonta, has refused to take any legal action against PG & E.
Mr. Banta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
PG&E says it is working to increase its accountability and transparency to the public, which will help improve the settlement.
PG&E Corporation Chief Executive Patricia K. “We are committed to doing our part, and we look forward to a long-term partnership with these communities to make it right and secure,” Pope said.
The settlement did not include the Zogg fire, which burned more than 56,000 acres in Shasta County in the fall of 2020 and destroyed 204 buildings. In that case, PG&E faces charges of crime and misdemeanor, including murder.
Federal and state prosecutors have previously pleaded guilty and convicted PG & E in connection with the gas pipeline explosion and fire. PG&E’s crimes include 84 involuntary manslaughter resulting from the campfire that destroyed the city of Paradise in 2018.
Campfire and several other fire companies led PG&E to bankruptcy protection in 2015 after raising দাব 30 billion in firefighting liabilities. The utility emerged from bankruptcy in July 2020.
The utility has proposed spending billions of dollars on underground transmission lines to prevent its equipment from catching fire.