PG&E announces intent to file bankruptcy

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

PG&E announces intent to file bankruptcyPacific Gas & Electric’s announcement this week of the intent to file bankruptcy has sparked two driving questions: What happens to the open lawsuits from numerous fire victims? Does that mean rates will go up?

Although the cause of the Camp Fire remains under official investigation, numerous lawsuits cite “overwhelming evidence” that PG&E is responsible for sparking the fire — which wiped out a Northern California community last year, earning the bleak distinction as the most deadly fire in state history.

The company reportedly faces some $30 billion in claims stemming from fires in 2017 and 2018. The announcement of intent to reorganize under Chapter 11 prompted a 52-percent plummet in stock values, and left users wondering about the future of the public utility.

“PG&E provides gas and electric service to 16 million Californians,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement released shortly after the company’s announcement. “I have been closely monitoring the impact of PG&E’s existing and potential future liability for the deadly wildfires on the victims of the fires and the consumers who rely on PG&E for their electric and gas service.”

He added that the company should honor promises made to energy suppliers and users. “Throughout the months ahead, I will be working with the legislature and all stakeholders on a solution that ensures that 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.”

Newsom, who took office just the week prior, said he has instructed his team to meet with the California Public Utilities Commis-sion, along with PG&E and union representatives, to ensure a plan moving forward.

PG&E says its notice gives the legally required 15 days advance notice owed to its employees, with plans to file “on or about” Jan. 29.

“My No. 1 priority and focus is to ensure that Kern County residents continue to get reliable utility service without any interruptions,” said Assemblyman Vince Fong, who represents the Indian Wells Valley and most of Kern.

“As Sacramento evaluates a number of policy proposals this year, our priority must ensure that Kern County residents have access to affordable and reliable energy in their homes and businesses, and that the families and individuals who suffered terrible loss to the wildfires are taken care of.”

Story First Published: 2019-01-18