Utility That Serves 16M Declares Bankruptcy

Liabilities for state wildfires are just too expensive for PG&E
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 14, 2019 5:30 PM CST
California's Biggest Utility Declares Bankruptcy
In this Friday, Nov. 9, 2018 file photo, Pacific Gas & Electric crews work to restore power lines in Paradise, Calif.   (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

California's largest utility is crying uncle. PG&E Corp said Monday it will file for bankruptcy protection as it deals with billions in possible liability costs over huge state wildfires, the Wall Street Journal reports. The utility and its main unit, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., plan to file on or around Jan. 29. "We believe a court-supervised process under Chapter 11 will best enable PG&E to resolve its potential liabilities in an orderly, fair, and expeditious fashion," said interim CEO John Simon, per NPR. He added that the bankruptcy "will enable PG&E to access the capital and resources we need to continue providing our customers with safe service." But safety is an issue that has dogged the beleaguered utility for months.

State fire officials blame PG&E's power lines for causing 17 Northern California wildfires in 2017, and regulators are probing the utility's possible role in causing November's deadly Camp Fire. All told, wildfire liabilities could hit $30 billion. The state legislature might respond by protecting PG&E, but widespread anger makes that difficult. Meanwhile, CEO Geisha Williams suddenly stepped down Sunday and is set to receive severance that could top $10 million, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The utility's stock has fallen 64% since the Camp Fire started on Nov. 8. PG&E delivers electricity and natural gas to some 16 million people. (Read more bankruptcy stories.)

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