California Utility Tied To Devastating Wildfires To File For Bankruptcy


The financing will provide PG&E sufficient liquidity to maintain its ongoing operations, the company stated.

Under Williams, PG&E spent millions of dollars trying to convince state lawmakers to change a legal doctrine known as inverse condemnation, under which utilities are liable for damages if their equipment is found to have sparked a wildfire, even if they weren't negligent.

A bankruptcy filing is not assured, the sources said.

The company said Monday that it has only about $1.5 billion in cash and cash equivalents on hand.

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"It has truly been an honour to lead PG&E and to serve more than 16 million people in Northern and Central California", Williams said in her own emailed statement on Sunday.

The lights and gas will remain on, PG&E officials said, noting that the utility "remains committed to providing safe natural gas and electric service to customers as it prepares to initiate voluntary reorganization proceedings under Chapter 11", according to a company statement.

This includes California's deadliest fire on record which killed 86 people and destroyed around 14,000 homes. The utility's liabilities could potentially reach $30 billion United States, according to analyst estimates. "It's too many claims, the aggregate amount is too great, and it looks at first blush to be indefensible because PG&E knew of this risk and didn't clear the line areas as it should have", he said. "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.

While investigators have determined PG&E starting multiple California wildfires in 2017, PG&E is facing allegations that its equipment started the 2018 Camp Fire, the deadliest and most destructive blaze in state history. Bankruptcy court has no say over the rates utility customers pay; those are decided by state regulators and politicians. It also puts pressure on California's new governor, Gavin Newsom, and legislators to come up with a plan that could keep the utility solvent.

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In the sidebar to this article we are including the entire press release issued Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019 by PG&E.

"PG&E faces extensive litigation and significant potential liabilities resulting from these wildfires". PG&E's wildfire insurance for the year that began August 1, 2018, covers $1.4 billion.

Ratings agency S&P slashed PG&E's credit rating to junk status earlier this month, citing growing regulatory and financial concerns stemming from the wildfire probe.

The previous bankruptcy was caused by PG&E; racking up over $12 billion in debt due to price controls implemented by California's restructuring plan amid the state's electricity crisis. "Throughout the months ahead, I will be working with the Legislature and all stakeholders on a solution that ensures consumers have access to safe, affordable and reliable service, fire victims are treated fairly, and California can continue to make progress toward our climate goals".

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