SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Pacific Gas & Electric announced a proposed settlement with Butte County early Monday, agreeing to plead guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of unlawfully starting a fire stemming from the deadly and destructive 2018 Camp Fire.
The company said the plea deal will resolved all state charges related to the deadly fire which was triggered by the utility’s faulty equipment and nearly destroyed the entire town of Paradise.
PG&E also agreed to pay the maximum of approximately $4 million in fines including the expenses related to the district attorney’s investigation. In addition, the utility has agreed to fund efforts to restore access to water for the next five years for residents impacted by the loss of the Miocene Canal, which was destroyed by the fire.
Before the deal becomes final, it must be approved by the Butte County Superior Court and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
PG&E Corporation CEO and President Bill Johnson made the following statement about the agreement:
On Nov. 8, 2018, the Camp Fire destroyed the towns of Paradise and Concow, impacted Magalia and other parts of Butte County and took the lives of more than 80 people. Thousands lost their homes and businesses. Many others were forced to evacuate and leave their lives behind.
“Our equipment started the fire,” said PG&E CEO and President Bill Johnson in a prepared statement. “Those are the facts, and with this plea agreement we accept responsibility for our role in the fire.”
“We cannot change the devastation or ever forget the loss of life that occurred,” he continued. “All of us at PG&E deeply regret this tragedy and the company’s part in it… We cannot replace all that the fire destroyed, but our hope is that this plea agreement, along with our rebuilding efforts, will help the community move forward from this tragic incident.”
PG&E previously reached settlements with all groups of victims from wildfires in 2015, 2017 and 2018, totaling approximately $25.5 billion. Costs from those settlements forced the nation’s largest publicly held utility to file for Chapter 11 protection last year. Officials have been working on a reorganization plan that will allow PG&E to emerge from bankruptcy this year.
“The action we took today is an important step in taking responsibility for the past and working to create a better future for all concerned,” Johnson said. “We want wildfire victims, our customers, our regulators and leaders to know that the lessons we learned from the Camp Fire remain a driving force for us to transform this company.”