PG&E faces $155 million in fines over deadly California fire

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A house burns on Platina Road in the Zogg Fire near Ono, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Ethan Swope)

A house burns on Platina Road in the Zogg Fire near Ono, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Ethan Swope)

AP

State regulators said Wednesday they plan to introduce fine of $155.4 million v. PG&E Corp . for the Zogg fire that killed four people in rural Shasta County two years ago.

In announcing the fines against California’s largest utility, the California Public Utilities Commission said PG&E was responsible for the fire, which started when a power line was damaged by a gray pine tree with “significant obvious defects that should have been apparent to anyone conducting a visual inspection of the fire.” review.”

PG&E is is already under criminal charges in a fire that started on September 27 near the town of Igo, west of Reading. The company has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and other charges. The fire burned out on an area of ​​56,388 hectares.

PG&E shareholders, not ratepayers, will bear the state penalty.

The company already faces potential liabilities totaling more than $1 billion from fires since the company’s bankruptcy — itself sparked by a flurry of major fires that have left PG&E in the billions of dollars in losses. The company emerged from bankruptcy in 2020 after pledging to pay $13.5 billion in wildfire damages to victims. Zogg’s fire flared up about two months later.

While the company’s biggest financial headaches usually come from victim claims, PG&E has also been fined in the past by the Public Utilities Commission for its conduct. In 2020, he agreed to a $2 billion fine for the 2017 Wine Country fires and the 2018 Camp Fire, the deadliest wildfire in California history.

The Public Utilities Commission said PG&E should be fined for violating vegetation management standards and failing to inspect a power pole in the immediate vicinity of the fire.

PG&E said in a written statement that it is reviewing the commission’s proposed fine and “we believe that any potential financial penalties should be directed to the benefit of our customers and to keeping our hometowns safe.”

The company said it settled civil lawsuits filed by Shasta County officials and settled “with most of the individual victims and their families to make it right.”

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Dale Kasler talks about climate change, the environment, the economy and the confusing world of California water. He also covers important business stories for McClatchy’s western newspapers. He joined The Bee in 1996 from the Des Moines Register and graduated from Northwestern University.

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