PG&E settles lawsuits over California wildfires worth $55 million but admits no wrongdoing

by ian

Ian Patrick, FISM News


On April 11, the California Utility Company Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) announced they had reached a $55 million settlement agreement with district attorneys representing six counties over their alleged involvement in sparking two deadly California wildfires in the past three years.

The settlement is civil in nature, as PG&E denies any wrongdoing in sparking the 2019 Kincade Fire and the 2021 Dixie Fire.

“Today, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and district attorneys representing six Northern California counties announced settlements resolving the 2019 Kincade Fire and 2021 Dixie Fire,” the company wrote in their announcement. “As a result of these agreements, no criminal charges will be filed in the Dixie Fire, and the criminal complaint regarding the Kincade Fire will be dismissed.”

The Sonoma County prosecutors had hoped to have some measure of accountability from the company which was accused of allowing energy to run through a transmission tower in a flammable area within the county. Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch told the San Francisco Chronicle, which broke the news, that they were looking for “some level of accountability going forward – to ensure PG&E is doing everything it can to keep us safe.”

According to reporting from Reuters, California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said that the Kincade Fire “was caused by PG&E’s electrical transmission lines.”

As for last year’s Dixie Fire, PG&E “said the blaze may have started when a tree fell onto one of the utility’s power cables,” according to Reuters. FISM News reported at the time that the fire caused thousands of evacuations and became California’s second largest wildfire behind the Complex Fire in 2020.

Part of the settlement included measures with six California counties – those being Sonoma, Butte, Lassen, Plumas, Shasta and Tehama – “to strengthen wildfire safety and response programs and to work with local organizations affected by the fires to help rebuild impacted communities,” according to PG&E.

“These commitments include assistance for local non-profits, support for community colleges to expand their wildfire safety training and a direct claims program for victims of the Dixie Fire who lost their homes,” it added.

PG&E Corporation CEO Patti Poppe  said members of the utility company “respect the leadership of the local DAs, welcome the new level of transparency and accountability afforded by these agreements, and look forward to working together for the benefit of the communities we collectively serve.”

The utility company is no stranger to litigation over involvement in creating wildfires. The company came out of bankruptcy in 2020 after paying to alleviate families devastated by previous fires caused by their equipment in 2017 and 2018.